Coronavirus Information for Customers

Published 1 May 20

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is causing significant ongoing disruption to people’s travel plans. The below details COVID-19 related cover available on Columbus Direct policies (for New Zealand residents). Please note that it is provided as a guide only.

  • If you have questions relating to your specific circumstances, we encourage you to contact us to discuss.

Cover available under your policy will depend on several factors. These include the date the policy was purchased, the date the trip was booked, the destination of travel, New Zealand Government travel advisories and the specifics of your situation. Cover is subject to the standard policy terms and claims will be assessed on a case by case basis.

 

Contents

 

Is there cover for COVID-19 related claims on my policy?


There are no general exclusions on our policy that relate to epidemics or pandemics. However, there is a general exclusion for claims resulting from a circumstance which could reasonably have been foreseen as likely to give rise to a claim by the insured at the time the insurance was purchased, or the trip was booked.

On 31st January 2020, the WHO deemed the COVID-19 outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. As of that date the insurer considers COVID-19 to be a known event globally. If you purchased your policy or booked your trip AFTER 31st January 2020, it is unlikely there will be cover for COVID-19 related claims. You can still lodge a claim if you wish. Every claim is assessed individually. Your claim decision will be based on the policy wording and your individual situation. If your claim is denied, you can dispute the finding. Please refer to our complaints page for further information.

If you purchased your policy and booked a trip BEFORE 31st January 2020, then COVID-19 related claims will be covered subject to usual terms and conditions.

 

Minimising your losses

One of our policy’s general conditions is that you must take all reasonable care to avoid or minimise any loss that might result in you claiming under this insurance and you act at all times as if the insurance were not in force. This means you should therefore exhaust all other potential avenues of recovery first. Our insurance will only cover amounts that you are unable to recover from the relevant provider(s). This includes but is not limited to tour operators, accommodation providers and airlines. If your airline cancels your flight, then you should legally be entitled to a refund or a credit note for a future trip. Please note that credit notes and vouchers for future trips will be deemed as refunds. As such, these sums are generally not recoverable from insurers.

 

Government Travel Advisories and general policy cover

It is a general exclusion of the policy that there is no cover under any section of the policy if you travel to a destination where the Government is advising against travel, even if you purchased your policy prior to that advice being in place. This covers any area or country for which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) advisory is at "Do Not Travel".

There is no cover under any section of a policy if you are in a country or region when the MFAT advisory rises to "Do Not Travel" if you decide to remain there even though you were able to leave. If you are overseas and are unable to return, please contact our Assistance helpline for guidance.

 

Cancellations and rescheduling due to a Government Travel Advisory

If you purchased your policy before a MFAT travel advisory was increased to a "Do Not Travel" warning, please contact your airline, accommodation and tour providers as soon as possible to assess your cancellation or rescheduling entitlements. If you have outstanding out of pocket expenses after this is done, then you can submit a claim. Your claim will be assessed with reference to the full policy terms. You should check the MFAT website for the latest advisories.

The following points should also be noted:

  • Always ensure you are aware of the terms and conditions of your travel, accommodation and/or tour bookings before you contact your providers to cancel. If you had a right to a refund under the terms and conditions at the time of purchase, your provider is not permitted to change the terms later to deny you a refund.
  • If you have payments due, where possible ask the provider if there is any opportunity to defer payment deadlines, then call us to discuss the implications of making payment in terms of the cover provided under your policy.
  • If your destination does not have a Level 4 (Do Not Travel) warning at the time you are scheduled to travel, then this may prejudice your right to a claim under your policy. If you need to cancel your trip due to the Government travel advisories and are within 30 days of your intended trip date, please contact us to discuss the situation and we will advise the cover available given your circumstances.
  • For further detail about your general rights as a consumer in relation Disrupted travel, events and trade you may wish to refer to Commerce Commission New Zealand’s ‘COVID-19’ information at its website.

 

What if your travel or accommodation provider becomes insolvent?

There is a general exclusion on the policy in the case of insolvency of a travel agent, tour operator, carrier or accommodation provider. If your travel or accommodation provider becomes insolvent and you had paid for them by credit card then you may be able to recover the funds via your credit card company, as the service offered was not supplied.

 

Cover by section

The sections of our policy that provide cover in relation to an epidemic are outlined below, however you should read the Policy Wording for the full policy cover, terms and conditions. The cover below is only available to those who meet the policy cover criteria including the outbreak related policy conditions outlined above.

 

Overseas Medical Expenses (Policy Wording page 10) – if you purchased your policy before it was deemed a known event, and you didn’t travel to, or remain in, an area or country where the MFAT travel advisory is at "Do Not Travel", normal cover terms and conditions will apply if you contract the virus whilst overseas. There is no cover for any medical or quarantine costs incurred within Australia. This includes costs related to your being quarantined prior to your official entry.

 

Cancellation  (Policy Wording page 9) – there is certain cover for irrecoverable travel and accommodation costs if your trip is necessarily and unavoidably cancelled prior to its start date as a result of a regulation from the Australian government following an epidemic that prevents you from travelling - ie. an MFAT "Do Not Travel" advice that is in place at the date your trip commences. Please also note the related detail at the Minimising your losses and Cancellations and rescheduling due to a Government Travel Advisory sections above.

NOTE: the reasonable costs of rescheduling your trip will be considered if you would otherwise have had to cancel, provided those costs are not greater than the irrecoverable cancellation fees or lost deposits.

 

Curtailment (Policy Wording page 9) – there is certain cover for a proportionate refund of your irrecoverable pre-paid costs if you necessarily curtail your trip to return to Australia due to your serious illness, or a regulation from the Australian Government.

 

Catastrophe (Policy Wording page 13) – there is certain cover for irrecoverable travel and accommodation expenses necessarily incurred if you’re forced to move from your pre-booked accommodation to continue your trip as a result of a medical epidemic or local government directive which is confirmed in writing by local or national authority. If the trip cannot be continued you can claim this cover in relation to your return home instead.

 

Annual Multi-Trip policies and renewal

Given the unprecedented impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, we made the difficult decision to suspend sales of our travel insurance products indefinitely. If you have a current Annual Multi-Trip policy, this will not be affected. But, unfortunately, we will not in a position to offer you the opportunity to purchase another policy when it expires. Should you require a travel insurance policy at this time, then you may wish to refer to the Find an Insurer tool at the Insurance Council of New Zealand’s website. If there is anything you wish to discuss in this regard, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

 

If I am no longer travelling can I cancel my policy and get a refund?

Outside of the 19-day cooling-off period, the policy does not permit cancellation and refund as standard. However, we do understand that the current COVID-19 situation represents an exceptional set of circumstances. As such, as a gesture of goodwill, Columbus Direct and the underwriters are currently willing to consider offering a refund of the unused portion of your policy premium, excluding irrecoverable administrative and promotional costs. The detail of the partial refund that would apply to your policy is available on request and subject to no claims having been made on the policy. You should carefully consider whether you wish to cancel a policy and the cover it provides before proceeding.