Should you buy cancellation insurance for your trip?

An Ontario couple who didn’t buy travel insurance ahead of their vacation were disappointed to learn they were denied a refund after contracting COVID-19 last week.

Niagara Falls residents Sharon Manella and Steve De Angelis said they were anxious to go on vacation to a Jamaica resort and were set to fly out of Toronto Pearson Airport last week.

“We were looking forward to getting away for the first time in three years,” De Angelis told CTV News Toronto. “We got through the pandemic triple-vaxed with no issues at all.”

The couple paid $1,700 each for a vacation package. They said they didn’t purchase trip cancellation insurance because their trip came with an option to change their plans up to one week before.

“We had a clause that said if anything happens a week before, you can make changes without penalty so we felt pretty safe,” De Angelis said.

But days before their flight, they both caught COVID-19 and because they tested positive, they weren’t allowed to fly.

When they contacted their travel agent, they were told because they didn’t purchase cancellation insurance there would be no refund.

“I’m fully accepting that we didn’t take the insurance and we can take any penalty they want to give us, but to lose $1,700 each, that’s tyrannical,” De Angelis said.

The couple booked the vacation through Sunwing and a company spokesperson told CTV News they’re “aware of the customer in question, and sincerely regret that they fell ill before their departure and were unable to travel as planned.”

“The customer had booked a Sunwing vacation package through a travel agency and did not purchase insurance with Sunwing at the time of booking to cover them for unexpected medical issues including COVID-19,” they said.

“While we do offer customers the flexibility to make a one time change to their travel dates, destination or resort up to seven days before departure, which applies to most Sunwing vacation packages booked between September 27, 2021 and April 30, 2022, we encourage all customers to strongly consider purchasing travel insurance including COVID-19 coverage in the unforeseen event they become ill at any point before their departure date or while travelling.”

Sunwing said, in this couple’s case, they were past the seven day cut-off to make changes to their travel plans.

Will McAleer, Executive Director of the Travel Health Association of Canada, said that “based on what we see, there are increased COVID-19 cases around the world and travel right now is not for the faint of heart as there are still obstacles to be aware of.”

McAleer said that while companies are trying to have flexible policies during the pandemic, the best way to make sure you’re covered in case you can’t take your trip due to an illness or for other reasons is to purchase cancellation insurance.

“Some of the generous provisions that travel companies are using to encourage people to come back to travel are beginning to get less and less, so you need to have protection and that comes in the form of travel insurance,” he said.

The couple is frustrated they didn’t get their holiday and will lose their money, but wanted to share what their story to warn others who may be planning a trip.

“It’s upsetting right now. The resort was so beautiful and we were looking forward to going, but now we have to stay home with our cats,” Manella said.

It’s not just cancellation insurance Anyone traveling now should also have travel medical insurance which helps cover added costs and expenses if you catch COVID-19 or have any health issues while abroad.

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