CHICAGO – Nearly half of Americans were forced to cancel travel plans due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Travel insurance is on the rise after many of them lost out on money because of the cancellations.
In the U.S., the first wave of trip cancellations started with spring break.
Ranjana Morgan was supposed to take her daughter to Mexico for her senior trip, but says before takeoff, the group of 60 started to dwindle.
“The plan was to leave on March 14 and in March, there was just so much uncertainty. “Every day was some new thing was happening in the news in regards to the pandemic,” Morgan said.
She said one by one, people started to cancel the trip.
At that point, flights and hotels were non-refundable. The group could have been out thousands of dollars, but they protected their investment.
“I have a hard time believing we would have gotten our money back if we didn’t have that insurance. If anything, we would have had to just reschedule at a later time and gotten credit,” said Morgan.
Travel agency Smartflyer said they have seen a 300-400 percent rise in travel insurance purchases since the pandemic started.
“Travel insurance is invaluable,” CEO Michael Holtz said. “A lot of it also has a post departure element, should your baggage get delayed, should you miss your flight, should there be insolvency by the supplier.”
As travelers may have not looked into insurance, airlines started to relax cancellation policies.
“Enough complaints came in to the DOT in Washington that they issued a directive that flights must give refunds if flights are not operation and airlines have complied,” Holtz said.
Travel advisors said it’s best to wait until closer to your travel date to contact the airlines. But refunds are so backed up, it could take about two to three months to get your money back.
Sometimes, the flight credit will take travelers further than a refund.
“Frankly, some of those solutions could be a voucher or could be to use the ticket at a later date because some airlines have said that if you hold the ticket and use it later they won’t increase the fare,” said Holtz. “And we believe that fares are gonna go up, so getting a refund is not always the best policy for the client.”
Travel advisors said the industry should rebound strong. While they can’t pinpoint when, they said it will start with domestic travel and take off from there.