Coronavirus: What to Know About Flight Cancellations and Refunds

Hoping to get a refund? Here’s what you should know if you’re considering shelving your travel plans.

Travelers at an airport.

To fly or not to fly—that is the question on many travelers’ minds right now. With the coronavirus outbreak, country borders are facing closures and travel restrictions are being ramped up, resulting in flights being else postponed or canceled.

Here’s what you should know if you’re considering shelving your travel plans: 

Will my airline refund me for flight cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic?

If your flight ticket is for Mainland China or Wuhan, the epicenter of the disease, it’s most likely that you can cancel your flight and receive a refund.

Those with flights to the rest of the world, it’s a little more complicated. If you’ve traveled to Wuhan, Mainland China, Iran, South Korea, or Northern Italy in the last 14 days (subject to change by the respective immigration authorities), certain countries have imposed immigration restrictions and you’re not allowed to transit and/or enter. Only in this case would you be qualified for flight cancelation and refund.

When am I entitled to compensation for my canceled flight?

Currently, airlines are canceling their flights both to protect the health and safety of their passengers, as well as protecting their finances. Passengers are likely only able to claim refunds during the coronavirus period for the following reasons: Airlines canceling flights for financial reasons, when there are no enroute restrictions due to border closures, no official travel warning to the destination has been issued, and passengers were informed of the cancellation less than 14 days before departure.

Will I be covered if I want to cancel my flight to a coronavirus risk zone?

This largely depends on your government advisory, the airline you’ve booked with, and the conditions of the particular carrier. If your flight ticket is to a destination deemed unsafe by your government, then it’s more likely that the airline will cancel the flight, resulting in a refund.

Can I buy insurance after booking a flight?

Those without annual travel insurance but are planning to purchase either annual or single trip insurance at a later date, will find It nearly impossible with the coronavirus outbreak situation.

According to insurance company AXA, “Travel insurance protects against unexpected events. If you buy a policy for a destination where an outbreak has been reported or regulatory advice is already in place, then coronavirus claims will not be considered”.

Since coronavirus has affected almost every major city in the world, it’s unlikely that one can get coverage for the effects of a pandemic.

What’s the best way to get a full refund on your flight?

While some airlines are making it tough for passengers to get their money back, other carriers have online forms where travelers can request for a refund. Alternatively, they may need to call in to speak to a representative, stating clearly that they’d like a refund and not a travel credit. The last course of action? Perhaps dispute the charge on your credit card.


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