Martin Lewis: ‘coronavirus outbreak will leave many UK travellers out of pocket’

Consumer expert Martin Lewis has warned that the UK coronavirus outbreak will leave thousands of holidaymakers out of pocket.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has warned against all but essential travel to main and China, parts of south Korea and Italy – however those who chose to cancel holidays elsewhere, could find they lose every penny they paid.

As a general rule, travellers are being told to take out insurance to cover them in the event that the virus causes flight and holiday cancellations.

"If we have an outbreak, there are quite a large number of scenarios where travellers will lose money.

"For example, vulnerable people who won’t want to travel will lose out," Lewis told The Sun.

"There’s a lot of anger about it but we are in an unprecedented scenario."

So far, there have been over 89,000 cases in 50 countries confirmed.

Under current rules, travel insurers aren't obliged to pay out if the passenger changes their mind about a destination that hasn't been warned against by the FCO.

There also many be holidaymakers who have inadequate policies or have not taken out insurance and face losing cash.

Martin added: "Insurance is about protecting yourself from unexpected events. There are ‘known’ expected event and then there are ‘unknown’ expected events, like volcano eruptions or mass pandemics.

"Even people who’ve done everything right will lose out."

If you're travelling to a country which is not on the FCO list then you will be covered if your holiday is cancelled or travel advice changes – but you must double check the small print of the policy.

Although, those who decide not to travel due to fears of coronavirus face losing out the most.

They will not be covered by insurance and it's unlikely the travel firm or airline will offer a refund or alternative arrangements.

We've got a full guide on your coronavirus travel rights – including refunds – here .

Mark Shepherd, from the Association of British Insurers, said: "Travel insurers understand that this is a difficult time for people on or planning overseas trips.

"Insurers are doing everything possible to help their customers make claims where they can, and direct them to other sources that may be able to help."

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  • Coronavirus: Brits face losing money by cancelling Italy summer holidays now

On Tuesday, many flights between the UK and Italy were put on hold, after Italy introduced a ban to help contain the virus.

EasyJet has grounded most of its flights to and from northern Italy but is continuing to serve locations such as Milan, Venice and Bologna.

It is advising customers who do not want to fly that they would only be due a refund of "any government tax you may have paid".

Ryanair is telling customers whose flights are running that "the no cancellation and no refund policy remains".

British Airways is allowing passengers booked to travel on flights to and from northern Italy up to April 4 to change travel dates or obtain a refund.

Anyone imminently due to visit Italy on a package holiday should be offered alternative arrangements by their travel provider and a full refund if there are no suitable options.

If a tour operator refuses, customers may be entitled to compensation under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements 2018 regulations.

Travel trade organisation Abta said "it is too early" to say that summer holidays cannot go ahead as planned.

"If you cancel early you may have to pay cancellation charges," it added.

Anyone who has booked flights or accommodation directly should contact their airline and accommodation provider to see what flexibility they are offering.

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