Coronavirus: Change or cancel travel plans due to pandemic outbreak

Coronavirus: Change or cancel travel plans due to pandemic outbreak

  • As the coronavirus continues to spread, with outbreaks appearing in South Korea, Italy, Iran, and elsewhere, travelers and travel providers are being forced to rethink plans and make adjustments.
  • If you’re concerned about the virus, your options for a cancellation or refund may be limited, but as the situation continues to develop, refund policies are likely to change as the virus moves closer toward pandemic status.
  • Here’s what you need to know about canceling or changing your travel plans because of the coronavirus.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, travelers are starting to rethink work trips and vacations.

Global tourism is bracing for a major slowdown as countries other than China struggle to contain outbreaks and travel restrictions and airline cancellations reach new markets.

“If there was previously a temptation to view the coronavirus as a China or Asia issue, then developments this week must force a shift in mindset,” Nick Wyatt, head of travel and tourism research at GlobalData, said in an email to Business Insider. “With the news that 12 towns in Italy are on lockdown and countries like Austria and Croatia announcing their first cases, it is readily apparent that the impact is likely to be felt on a more global scale than was perhaps previously envisaged.”

The spread of the virus has been swift, with new hotspots popping up around the world almost daily. In addition to China, outbreaks have been found in Italy, Iran, and South Korea.

If you’re scheduled to travel to a country with a confirmed outbreak, you may be able to cancel your trip and get a full refund.

Airlines around the world — including the major three US airlines: American, Delta, and United — have suspended routes to China.

However, refund policies vary tremendously among different airlines and depend on your destination.

If you’re simply canceling a trip because you’re worried about the virus, odds are you won’t be able to get a refund — even with travel insurance, whether you purchased it separately or used your credit card’s coverage.

“The only travel insurance that would be helpful in that scenario is when you pay extra for a ‘cancel for any reason’ plan,” Ted Rossman, an industry analyst at, told Business Insider. “If you’re just canceling out of fear of traveling and getting sick, that’s not a good enough reason.”

People who get sick before their trips and are worried about traveling with a weaker immune system may be able to invoke their insurance plan’s trip-cancellation coverage, provided they have a note from a doctor, Rossman said.

While travelers may have better luck asking their airline and hotel for a refund or cancellation, most travel providers are only offering that if you’re scheduled to fly to the most seriously affected regions — that is, China, South Korea, and starting this week, Italy.

If you’re absolutely set against traveling during the coronavirus spread — even if you’re going somewhere without the virus — Rossman suggested that instead of walking away and losing the whole value of your trip, paying a change fee to reschedule it for the summer, or to another destination.

“Even if you’re really worried and you don’t want to travel, look into changing plans rather than canceling them, because usually the fees are better in that instance. Maybe you could reschedule your trip for later, or pick a different destination,” he said. “You’ll probably pay some fees, but you won’t lose the whole trip.”

The situation is changing fast, and as new hotspots and outbreaks are reported, it’s likely that airline and travel policies will change too.

We’ve rounded up the refund and rescheduling policies of major airlines below, and the effects that the virus is having across their routes. We’ll continue to update this page as the situation develops.

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