RICHMOND, Va. -- Tentative international travelers are facing the reality of trip cancellations due to the international Coronavirus threat.
CBS 6 producer Christina Ziu was looking forward to a European vacation with her friends, but decided to cancel her trip over concerns related to the Coronavirus.
“I’m actually supposed to be in Spain as we speak, but that all changed because of the Coronavirus,” Ziu said. “So much has happened over the past week, let alone the past 24 hours, so who’s to say something couldn’t happen while I was in Spain.”
Without travel insurance or much cancellation notice, Ziu was fearing a huge financial loss. When she called the airlines, she was put on a four-hour hold. However, when she finally reached an agent, Ziu said she was surprised by their response.
“They were very accommodating,” Ziu said. “Right off the bat, they just offered to let me have a voucher and they waived the change fee.”
Ziu is among thousands of travelers nationwide now changing their travel plans in response the novel virus. Richmond-based Allianz Insurance is one of the largest travel insurance companies in the world. Communications director Daniel Durazo said the company is seeing a 50 percent increase in call volume.
“It’s a tough time for the travel industry, absolutely,” Durazo said.
While epidemics are not normally covered by travel insurance, the company is changing its policy to help customers with trips booked to areas impacted by the Coronavirus, including China, North Korea and sections of Italy.
Durazo said several airlines and cruise companies are also softening their policies, even for people without insurance.
“If you haven’t bought travel insurance when you booked your trip, that is a tough predicament, “ Durazo said. “The good news is a lot of airlines, the cruises, the other travel suppliers are giving refunds and credits. They are being very accommodating, more than we’ve ever seen.”
While Ziu was covered for the cost of her airfare, she was not refunded for one of her hotels in Spain. Travel experts said if you’re planning a trip, insurance is crucial, both for financial and medical reasons.
Ziu says this has definitely been a learning experience.
“This is such an uncontrollable factor and it’s affecting so many people, so I would look into it (insurance) for the future if I were to do it again.”