People in Switzerland have long relied on their travel insurance when plans go awry. But costs associated with the pandemic have pushed insurance companies to implement stricter refund criteria.
Under normal circumstances, travel policies refund money for trips that are cancelled or curtailed because of illness or other justifiable reasons.
However, due to unprecedented number of trip cancellations and requests for reimbursement of travel expenses during the coronavirus outbreak, many insurers are now excluding epidemics and pandemics from their coverage.
As SRF public broadcaster reported on Wednesday, many policies now contain “explicit exclusions in connection with epidemics and pandemics, and the resulting quarantines”.
This clause is now included in many policies because insurance carriers have lost a lot of money when refund claims started to come in during the first wave of coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020.
SRF cites the example of Switzerland’s Mobiliar insurance, which paid around 40 million francs in cancellation costs in the first half of 2020 — 25 million more than in all of 2019.
What should you pay attention to when you take out a travel insurance policy?
First of all, carefully read the latest version of the carrier’s General Insurance Conditions.
“Customers should take a close look at which coronavirus-related risks are insured and which are not”, said Frédéric Papp, travel insurance expert at Comparis consumer portal.
In other words, make sure you are covered for risks associated with epidemics and pandemics, and there are no specific exclusions for Covid-19.
In some cases, the excluded risks can be insured separately as an ‘add-on’, though this supplement could be quite expensive.
For instance, if you fly with SWISS or its codeshare partners Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines, you can add a “Covid-19 package” to your ticket.
This complementary insurance includes trip interruption or cancellation in case you contract the virus, and compensation if you have to go into mandatory quarantine at your destination because of coronavirus infection. The price of this insurance depends on the kind of package you choose.
Papp noted that the best option is booking a trip through a travel agency “that has generous cancellation conditions”.
“Package tours usually offer more flexibility if a trip cannot take place or has to be interrupted due to coronavirus”, he said.