Omicron and travel: What new restrictions mean for refunds and insurance

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If you were planning to travel to another country or province this holiday season, the news about the Omicron COVID-19 edition is probably raising your level of concern. Will the virus spoil your trip once again? And will you get your money back if you have to cancel flights and hotels?

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The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday that there could soon be a rapid increase in infections in parts of southern Africa, where the new variant was identified for the first time. But the WHO has urged against travel restrictions, given their limited impact.

Still, wary nations are rushing to impose travel restrictions. In Canada, Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said on Tuesday that foreign nationals from Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt who have been to those countries in the past two weeks will not be able to enter Canada. It joins seven other African countries banned by Canada on Friday: South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.

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Canadians and permanent residents, as well as all those who have the right to return to Canada, who have transited through these countries in the past two weeks, must be quarantined, tested at the airport, and before exiting the quarantine Will have to wait for their exam results. , Duclos said.

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A handful of Omicron COVID-19 variant cases have been confirmed in Canada so far.

If you’ve booked a trip in the next few weeks and months, here’s what to expect.

Under Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulation (APPR), passengers are not entitled to more if an airline cancels a flight induced by a government travel ban. In such a scenario the minimum airlines should provide a rebooking, APPR. According to,

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But Gabor Lukak, president of the Consumer Advocacy Group for Air Passenger Rights, says that if you didn’t get the service you paid for — whether it was a flight or a vacation package — you’re entitled to a full refund under a common law principle. . As for the “frustration” of contracts. In other words: If you didn’t get what you paid for, you should get your money back. Specifically, the airline must provide a full refund in the original payment method, Lucas says.

“If you paid $217 for airfare and $53 in taxes, you have to get everything back together,” he says.

There should also be no cancellation fee, he added.

If the airline denies you a refund and you paid by credit card, you can ask your credit card issuer for a chargeback. If that fails, Lukak suggests frustrated travelers resort to what’s known as a statutory chargeback, which is governed by provincial law. Lucac has determined detailed guidelines Showing on their website how Canadians can pursue a statutory chargeback.

Fortunately, if your booking is for a flight to and from the US or the European Union (EU) or with a US or European carrier, you won’t have to fight that sort of battle, Lukak says.

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Under US law, passengers are entitled to a refund for flights canceled by the airline for any reason.

In June, the US Department of Transportation said it was seeking a $25.5 million fine from Air Canada over the carrier’s failure to provide a timely refund. Earlier this month it said the airline had agreed to a $4.5 million settlement to resolve the investigation.

European Union also established Right of refund of passengers For canceled flights. The law applies to all flights within the EU, operated by an EU airline and which depart from the EU, even if not operated by an EU airline.

However, keep in mind that if you decide to cancel your flight pre-emptively, there is no obligation under the law to provide a refund, Lucas says. They say you may still be entitled to at least part of your money, depending on the terms of the airline’s own tariff or the provisions of your travel insurance policy.

Since the start of the pandemic some carriers have adopted flexible booking options that entitle you to at least a partial refund if you decide to cancel your trip.

So-called trip cancellation and interruption insurance is designed to cover you for any non-refundable costs, such as airfare and hotel bookings, says John Samuel, managing editor of financial products comparison site RATESDOTCA.

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However, if you decide to travel to a destination to which the “do not travel” government advice applies, your policy may be void, warns Samuel.

And travel insurance will rarely refund you for the cost of the trip you decided to cancel, Samuel says.

Cancellation due for any reason (CFAR) coverage is the only policy that will let you hold back on your travel plans simply because you are worried.

Will McAleer, executive director of the Travel Health Insurance Association (THIA) in Canada, previously told Granthshala News that CFAR policies are returning to the market in Canada after disappearing earlier in the pandemic.

However, CFAR policies generally come at a price premium.

In addition, travel insurance for medical expenses will not cover things like canceled flights and hotel bookings, Samuel notes.

With files from Granthshala news reporter Saba Aziz and Reuters

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