The world is freaking out about the spread of the coronavirus, and many travelers are impacted. The World Health Organization has declared a global public health emergency with the current outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), a previously unknown strain of coronavirus. The U.S. State Department has accelerated its China travel advisory to Level 4: DO NOT TRAVEL, and major airlines have cancelled flights to and from mainland China plus Hong Kong. American Airlines, Delta, and United Airlines have now suspended all flights to both mainland China and Hong Kong, while most European airlines, such as British Airways, have so far cancelled operations to and from mainland China only.
All of these warnings and cancellations have forced a number of folks with current and future travel plans to China and Hong Kong to reassess their trips and cancel them. Which begets the question: Are they covered by travel insurance for this epidemic?
In short, the answer is NO, at least when it comes to the implicit trip cancellation and interruption insurance accompanying most top-tier credit cards. Trip cancellation and interruption insurance is a travel benefit currently offered by The Platinum® Card from American Express, Chase Sapphire Preferred®, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Mastercard Luxury Cards, and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card. It compensates loss when a trip that has been purchased on a credit card is then cancelled for valid reasons and covers the primary traveler plus family members up to a certain amount per occurrence (e.g., $20,000 in the case of the Reserve).
Unfortunately, epidemics and pandemics are not “covered reasons” to collect on trip cancellation and interruption insurance, while inclement weather, terrorist action, jury duty, and airline bankruptcy (in some cases) are. We’ve read through all of the fine print of all our core cards and there seems to be no way around it: Cancel your trip (voluntarily or involuntarily) and you won’t get reimbursed. Very, very disappointing, we know! That said, if you happen to be quarantined due to possible coronavirus exposure, you likely can collect as being quarantined is a covered reason with most credit card trip cancellation and interruption insurance policies.
Thankfully, the airlines are making it easy to obtain refunds with direct links on their websites. Change fee and cancellation fees are being waived, and full amounts are being refunded or held as a travel credit with most major airlines. While this just covers the airfare and leaves travelers out of pocket for nonrefundable hotel reservations, pre-purchased tours, and the like, it at least softens the blow. It may be worth contacting hotels, tour outfitters, and tour operators directly to see if they are offering compensation for cancellation or allowing changes to later dates. But contacting your cards benefits administrator to get even a dime back, fuggetaboutit!