Travel Insurance Companies Add Permanent Pandemic Coverage

Over the course of the last year, more people than ever before have experienced the disappointment of delaying or altogether canceling a trip—and the stress of losing money in doing so. Fortunately, that process is becoming a little less burdensome on travelers, thanks to widespread changes to travel insurance policies due to COVID-19.

In a major shift in the industry, a growing number of insurance providers are adding policies that cover cancellations or delays due to illness, individually ordered quarantines, denied boardings, and other events caused by COVID-19 or future epidemics. Previously, only one type of insurance offered some measure of coverage amid an existing epidemic or pandemic—cancel-for-any-reason policy upgrades—with the majority of travel insurance offering no coverage in a situation like COVID-19.

Now, as travelers become more comfortable with reentering the world, insurance providers are introducing more flexible policies. In a landmark move, Allianz announced on Monday that it’s enhancing policies to cover illnesses or individually ordered quarantines for COVID-19 and future epidemics. 

With these enhancements, epidemic-related illness is a covered reason to cancel or interrupt a trip, or seek reimbursement for emergency medical care, emergency medical transportation, change fees, and loyalty points redeposit fees. (Some of these add-ons became temporarily available at the onset of the pandemic, but they’re now available on a permanent ongoing basis.)

The product enhancements also allow insured travelers to cancel or interrupt a trip “if they or their traveling companion have been individually ordered to quarantine, regardless of whether they are ill or have tested positive for a disease,” Allianz says. “The trip interruption and travel delay benefits on certain plans will also provide coverage if a customer or their traveling companion is denied boarding by their travel carrier due to suspicion of illness.” 

These types of policies are becoming a staple among travelers right now. “Currently, our data indicates about 40 percent of our travelers are searching for and buying coverage specifically for COVID-19,” says Megan Moncrief, chief marketing officer at insurance comparison site Squaremouth. “For the time being, COVID-related coverage is continuing to drive travel insurance sales, and therefore, the development of travel insurance products that meet the needs of travelers today.”

While a large part of the uptick is no doubt driven by travelers looking for more peace of mind, the trend is also in large part due to destinations requiring visitors to have certain coverages upon entry. Countries like Aruba and Turks and Caicos are mandating specific medical coverage from travelers. Costa Rica, for one, requires visitors to have proof of travel medical insurance that can provide $50,000 in coverage for medical treatment related to COVID-19, as well as $2,000 in quarantine lodging expenses, according to Moncrief.

Other travel requirements, such as proof of a negative COVID test to enter the U.S., make these types of policies all the more necessary. In the face of a positive test result, “most of our providers have confirmed their policies can extend coverage beyond the original return date while the traveler is quarantined abroad, and can offer medical and travel delay benefits,” Moncrief says.

While these shifts build on added flexibility in the travel industry as a whole, there are still contingencies to be aware of. As with any policy, don’t forget to read the fine print: These types of enhancements still do not cover claims due to government travel warnings or advisories, and a handful of other exceptions like certain foreseeable events. 

But with more and more people booking trips regardless of whether they might be delayed due to the pandemic, these types of changes are overall a win for travelers.

We’re reporting on how COVID-19 impacts travel on a daily basis. Find our latest coronavirus coverage here, or visit our complete guide to COVID-19 and travel.