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Travel Insurance for Pandemics? This Company May Have a Solution

by Brook Wilkinson | April 25, 2020

UPDATE on July 23, 2020: Starting August 1, the cancellation policy described below will not cover travelers who choose to cancel a trip due to fear of COVID-19, but only if any of the travelers or their immediate family members are hospitalized due to COVID-19. (There is no change in the terms of policies purchased before August 1.) This change brings Atrio’s policy in line with every other travel insurer we know of, none of which will refund travelers who cancel due to fear of COVID-19. Travelers wishing for such peace of mind should consider “Cancel For Any Reason” coverage

When one of the ace travel experts on The WOW List told us she had found an insurance provider that would cover you if you canceled a trip due to fear of coronavirus, it sounded too good to be true. Most travel insurance, you see, considers COVID-19 to be a known risk and won’t reimburse you if you cancel a trip—even if the borders are closed and you literally can’t reach your destination. There are “Cancel For Any Reason” policies, but they’re expensive, and they only reimburse 50% to 75% of your costs.

By contrast, as I learned this week, Atrio Travel Assist’s cancelation policy lays out 17 allowable reasons for travelers to cancel a trip—and epidemics are one of them. Atrio will insure up to $10,000 per traveler, and the premium is surprisingly low (approximately 3% of the insured amount). You must purchase the policy within 72 hours of making your first trip payment, and you must cancel more than 24 hours before your departure. The policy also does not require that there be no State Department warning or advisory for your destination.

Wendy and I had never heard of Atrio Travel Assist, so I did some digging. Atrio has been selling insurance for 25 years, but they are relatively new to the travel-insurance game (that part of the business is three years old); they are backed by a German company with an excellent reputation and an even longer history in the insurance industry, and they have an A+ score with the credit-rating agency AM Best. Atrio caters primarily to the Latin American market, but they have an office in Miami that serves U.S.-based travelers.

Atrio Travel Assist’s standard travel insurance is less attractive: It doesn’t include in-country evacuation, so if you fall ill in a remote spot, you’re responsible for the (likely considerable) expense involved in making your way to a hospital. But you can pair Atrio’s stand-alone cancellation policy with medical/evacuation coverage from another provider (sites like squaremouth.com, travelinsurance.com, and insuremytrip.com can help you sort through those options).

This is by far the most generous cancellation insurance we’ve heard of when it comes to coronavirus. So while we will continue to investigate the company—we have already confirmed one instance in which travelers cancelled a trip to Peru and received reimbursement from Atrio—we wanted you, our travelers, to know about Atrio now. It’s a compelling option for travelers who have been on the fence about booking future trips, unsure when the pandemic will retreat and if/when it could flare up again.

If you do contact Atrio Travel Assist, we’d love to hear about your experience in the Comments section below. And we’ll update this article as we learn more.

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