USA Today, October 5th 2010 – Can you get a refund if you cancel a trip to Europe now?

Published by October 4, 2010

That’s a question some with air, tour and hotel reservations are asking in the wake of the State Department alert about potential terrorist activity.

You’re probably out of luck, says Chris Harvey, CEO of SquareMouth.com, on which you can compare costs and buy various kinds of travel insurance. The reason: the State Department has only issued an alert, not an advisory not to travel. It is not telling Americans not to go to Europe (read the USA TODAY story on the alert here), and airlines are so far not allowing flexibility on nonrefundable tickets.

“From an insurers’ point of view, you can’t cancel out of fear,” Harvey tells me. “Unless there’s been an event or the government has issued a warning not to travel, you’re out of luck.

“People calling us today are confused because it’s an alert — not a warning. They think that the State Department has told them not to travel and some are saying they want to cancel.” But they can’t without penalty, he says.

“If you had travel insurance and a terrorist event took place, you probably would be reimbursed. But you would have had to have bought your insurance before the event became public knowledge.” It’s similar to buying a policy in hurricane season, he says. “If you buy it before a storm is named, you’re covered. If you buy it after, you’re not covered for that storm.”

If you’ve already gotten a policy, Harvey says, “Let’s say there was an event — you need to figure out if you would be covered. Let’s say there was an event in Paris this week, and you were due to travel in December. You might not be covered” if you wanted to back out of the trip. Pull out the policy, he adds, and read the fine print.