Some Canadian insurance companies stop coverage for coronavirus-related trip cancellations

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML.

Travellers looking to cancel their trips due to coronavirus fears may be out of luck — even with travel insurance.

Consumers with regular trip cancellation insurance have typically been able to get refunds if a travel advisory was issued after they booked. But now two Canadian travel insurance providers — Manulife and TuGo — will no longer offer that type of coverage.

Manulife has determined that COVID-19 is now considered a “known” event and therefore cancellation coverage will no longer apply.

Its new policy goes into effect on Thursday,, meaning people who obtained policies before March 5 will still be covered.

TuGo also posted a similar advisory on its website, citing the same reason for its policy change, which took effect on Wednesday, March 4.

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Manulife said the exception to its rule would be for anyone who purchases the “Cancel for Any Reason” option that provides coverage for any type of trip cancellation.

Liam Lahey, the editor at rate comparison website, said the move by these insurers doesn’t mean travellers should avoid travel insurance overall.

“So far to date, only two insurance companies have come out and have stated that they are changing their trip cancellation policies,” Lahey said.

“There are other options out there for people, there are other travel insurance companies that have not followed suite. It really just depends on what types of coverage you’re looking for.”

Lahey said it’s in the best interest of all travellers to take the time and explore what’s available in spite of the policy changes.

“You’re taking a big risk if you go out there,” he added. “It could be financially devastating if something bad happens to you or a member of your family.”

The insurance policy changes come as Canada’s two largest airlines are waiving change fees in light of concerns.

Air Canada says a one-time change is permitted for tickets purchased from the airline between March 4 and March 31 for travel within 12 months.

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The fee waiver applies up to 14 days before travel.

Aeroplan flight reward bookings are also included and Air Canada Vacations is implementing flexible booking policies.

WestJet Airlines said the one-time change fee waiver within two weeks of travel will apply to new bookings made between March 3 and March 17 for travel through June 24.

Passengers on both airlines are required to pay any fare difference.

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