Coronavirus: Your travel questions answered

We answer common questions about travel plans disrupted by Covid-19.

Travellers in airport wearing face masks.

Travel plans affected by the coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know.

The airline’s cancelled my flight. What should I expect?

Airlines are usually either re-scheduling or refunding passengers on cancelled flights. Your airline should contact you to advise what’s happening.

If you booked through a travel agent, contact the agent.

My flight hasn’t been cancelled but I no longer want to travel. What are my options?

The government is advising New Zealanders not to travel overseas due to the risk of Covid-19. If you need to cancel your flight, your options will normally depend on your ticket. On a flexible fare, you should get a full refund.

If it’s a standard fare, ask the airline about getting a credit to use towards travel at a later date. You may also be able to upgrade to a flexi-fare, though you’ll normally have to pay extra.

Airlines may also be offering additional arrangements.

Air New Zealand is offering the option to hold fares in credit for any international or domestic booking between 20 March and 31 May 2020. You will need to pay any fare difference when redeeming the credit.

Airlines operating in our market must comply with the Fair Trading Act. This means their terms and conditions, including their cancellation terms, must be fair. If you think you’re being unfairly penalised, complain to the Commerce Commission.

Will my travel insurance cover costs if I cancel?

In general, insurers won’t cover delays and cancellations caused by epidemics and pandemics – or reimburse you if you choose to postpone your travel. Insurance doesn’t cover change of mind.

Check your policy to see what it provides and contact your insurer before making changes to your travel bookings.

If you think your insurer isn’t meeting its obligations or you’ve been misled about the cover your policy provides, make a complaint to the Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman.

If I travel overseas, will insurance cover me if I get sick from Covid-19?

If you bought your travel insurance policy before Covid-19 became a known event, you may be covered for health costs if you become ill.

However, insurers differ in the approach they’ve taken to setting cut-off dates for Covid-19 cover. Check with your insurer to confirm whether you’re covered.

I’ve decided not to travel. Can I get a refund for the cost of my travel insurance policy?

With most policies, you’ll have a cooling-off period after you buy when you can cancel and get a refund. However, cancellations outside of the cooling-off period will depend on the terms and conditions of your policy.

Southern Cross’ TravelCare Single Trip Policy states you can cancel before the start date of your journey and get a refund, less a $35 cancellation fee. The exception is if you’ve already made a claim under the policy – no refund applies in this case.

Check your policy to see what it provides if you need to cancel your cover.

I’ve booked accommodation and paid a deposit but want to cancel. What should I do?

Contact the accommodation provider. The company should have a cancellation policy that explains what happens if you want to cancel. You may be charged a cancellation fee.

Many providers are being flexible about cancellations at this time. It’s in their interests to do so, as they’ll be relying on consumers rebooking later.

If you used a booking site, such as Airbnb, get in touch with it. Airbnb’s website states it’s currently providing refunds for reservations made on or before 14 March 2020, with a check-in date of 14 April 2020, or earlier, and with at least one night occurring between 14 March and 14 April 2020.

If your accommodation provider isn’t honouring its terms and conditions, and you paid by credit or debit card, contact your bank to ask about a chargeback (a refund to your card).

I’m booked on a cruise. Should I still go?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is advising New Zealanders to reconsider taking any overseas cruises. The Covid-19 virus can spread rapidly on ships. Major cruise lines have already announced cancellations. Check with the cruise line or your travel agent.

In New Zealand, cruise ships have been banned from docking until at least 30 June 2020.

Where can I find out about travel restrictions?

Check the Safe Travel website for the latest advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on travel restrictions.

Health advice

If you have concerns about your health, contact the dedicated Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453.

You can also find information about the virus on the Ministry of Health website.

To reduce your risk of getting sick:

  • wash hands frequently with soap and water
  • avoid close contact with people who are ill
  • avoid close contact with sick farm animals or wild animals.

More on coronavirus

More on coronavirus

Crowd of people walking.

More on coronavirus

Read our latest articles on the Covid-19 pandemic. Got a consumer-related question about coronavirus? Email us at info@consumer.org.nz and we'll do our best to help.

Member comments

Get access to comment

P J V.
28 Mar 2020
Airline credits

The credits offered by Air NZ are really not useful. They are good for 12 months from the date of booking. If I booked a trip to London for summer 6 months in advance, I’m now faced with using the fare for a winter trip or loosing my money. In Germany as soon as the govt gave a travel warning everyone was entitled to a 100% refund. Consumer protection in NZ is too weak. Beyond that an airline bailed out by my taxes should be offering me a better deal.

Mike H.
23 Mar 2020
Flight cancellations and refunds

What are our rights to demand a refund on flights that have been cancelled, particularly where there is no reasonable alternative? We had international flights booked with Virgin Australia which were cancelled and they offered a full refund. However Jetstar and Qantas are only offering credit, and credit is a bit useless if they are no longer flying a particular route. While travel restrictions might be lifted within the 12 month credit period, many of these airlines are laying off staff and will probably take far longer than this to reinstate some routes (assuming some of these airlines even survive). I understood if a company could not deliver a service then we are entitled to our money back, not some useless credit.

Janet K.
22 Mar 2020
Celebrity Solstice Cruise and Qantas

Our Celebrity Solstice Cruise is due to depart Auckland on the 14 April 2020, this Cruise line has not cancelled and is not keeping us or our Fight Centre Travel Agent informed. I think the Cruise line is waiting to see who cancels as you will now get NO money back if you do. If we cancel we will be $5500 out of pocket on the Cruise alone. We paid for our Cruise and Return flight from Australia on the November 2019 pre any Coronavirus. Our Cruise is for 11 Days. We have never been on a cruise before and this was a once off special for us. Qantas have given us a credit of the cost of our oneway airfare. This is no good to us and a refund would have been preferred. We did get back 75% of our Flight Centre Insurance (which by the way doesn't cover pandemics) but only as a credit on future travel. We paid our money in good faith and yes we know it's a pandemic but we did not cause it!

Gerard C.
22 Mar 2020
Recent return from overses

My experience from returning overseas yesterday is that travel agents and air lines respond quicker to emails and social media requests rather than phone calls. They also want your business back when things come back on line and are changing their business processes to demonstrate this.

Heather B.
21 Mar 2020
Money back??

I am also interested in where we stand when the airline cancels (i.e. is no longer having the flight) but only offers a credit, not a refund. We are elderly and a credit is of no use to us (we may not be here to use it for a start) as we do not want to fly anywhere. We would like our money back!

Christine S.
20 Mar 2020
Domestic travel changes

Hi. What happens in the situation where we need to cancel domestic travel on AirNZ? Our daughter's graduation ceremony has been postponed indefinitely (and may end up being cancelled - hopefully not!). We would like a credit or a refund as we don't know when the event may now take place. We don't have flexi tickets. Thanks!

Neville C.
21 Mar 2020
Credit

Ain’t NZ have been offering free changes and credit for a year. We were send an email.

Colleen W.
21 Mar 2020
Refund

Yes all domestic flights have been offered a credit which is great good on them. We got a email from them yesterday on how to go about getting one.

Tanya D.
19 Mar 2020
Clarity re airfare refunds

What are our rights with obtaining a refund rather than a credit from airlines? Particularly if the airline has cancelled the flight - Virgin Australia's cancelled its international flights from NZ from the end of March to at least the end of May but on its web page it doesn't list refund as one of the options for those flights, only credit with the airline.

Bill R.
18 Mar 2020
Lack of information from travel insurer

As advised by industry spokespeople I asked our travel insurer whether I was covered if I cancelled my flights to/from the UK on medical advice due to COVID-19. They refused to say anything more than “put in a claim and see what happens”. That’s useless advice which means you have to cancel knowing whether you will be covered.