Don’t want to go to Hong Kong right now because of ongoing protests? Some airlines are allowing travelers to change or cancel their flights without paying penalty fees. American Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific posted online alerts after authorities on Monday closed the main international airport, where thousands of protesters were engaged in a peaceful sit-in. Airport check-ins again were suspended Tuesday after chaos erupted when protesters clashed with riot police.
The situation remains in flux. If you want to change your ticket, American Airlines is allowing fliers scheduled to go between now and Thursday to delay and fly to as late as Aug. 25 without penalty.
British Airways and Cathay Pacific are allowing passengers to rebook their flights or request a refund. Japanese carrier ANA and Australia’s Qantas advised passengers to check with the airlines before proceeding to the airport. Many airlines urged passengers to update their contact information so they could receive up-to-date flight information and alerts on their cellphones.
Other travelers looking for help from their travel insurance may be disappointed, unless they have “cancel for any reason” policies.
Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com, said standard policies exclude civil unrest, such as what’s happening in Hong Kong, and acts of war. However, policy holders may be eligible for travel delay benefits that would cover hotel, food and transportation while they are waiting to leave the country. The average trip delay benefits cover $200 to $300 per day, depending on the plan.
Travelers who bought cancel for any reason insurance may cancel their trip as late as two to three days before their scheduled departure and receive up to 75% of the cost of their trip.
Jenna Hummer, director of public relations at Squaremouth, a company that compares and sells travel insurance plans, says travelers should research what’s happening in the country they are visiting. “Travel insurance, and insurance in general, covers only unforeseen events and emergencies,” Hummer said. “So once an event is deemed ‘foreseen,’ travelers can no longer buy coverage for that event.”
If the situation in Hong Kong escalates and the government calls for an evacuation, most standard plans would cover those costs, Hummer says.
The U.S. State Department last Wednesday issued a travel advisory to Americans traveling to Hong Kong, urging them to stay on top of events by monitoring local media, avoid areas of demonstrations or large protests, and enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive alerts and make it easier for officials to locate you in an emergency.
Protesters were in their fourth consecutive day of protests at the airport, aiming to bring international attention to a movement against police violence and unwanted Chinese influence over Hong Kong that has inflamed the city for 10 weeks, an L.A. Times story reports.