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Escalating tensions in Hong Kong culminated in mass flight cancellations both to and from the region.
After a consecutive ten weeks of demonstrations, protesters invaded Hong Kong airport, forcing the suspension of all flights. While flights are set to resume this morning, the shutdown has left thousands of travellers stranded.
Natalie Ball, director of Comparetravelinsurance.com.au, says:
“At present, tensions have reached unprecedented levels in Hong Kong. The Australian government has upgraded its official travel warning to Hong Kong due to the high risk of violent confrontation. Given last night’s airport shutdown, Australians travelling in and out of Hong Kong should prepare for continued flight delays and cancellations."
As a result of pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong airport, more than 150 flights were cancelled on August 12th 2019. Consequently, passengers travelling between Australia and Hong have been urged to confirm their flights before departure. Cathay Pacific has advised that ‘customers postpone non-essential travel on 12 and 13 August 2019 and should not proceed to the airport.’
Ball notes that some airlines will assist travellers affected by the strikes.
“At this time, Cathay Pacific will waive certain charges for ticket changes. If you are travelling with another airline, contact them as soon as possible.”
Those travelling to Hong Kong may be questioning their safety amidst a period of civil unrest. However, travellers who had not yet purchased travel insurance prior to last Monday’s strikes would not be covered.
Ball says, “Those affected by the airport shutdown may be able to claim providing they had bought travel insurance prior to August 5th or 6th, when the Hong Kong strikes became apparent. However, if you had bought your policy after the strikes became 'known’, it's unlikely that your insurer will cover you.”
Ball notes that last-minute panic purchases become apparent when major events hit the mainstream media.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, particularly if you bought travel insurance prior to a major event like this. Those who were late to the party would most likely be unable to claim. In short, you are usually covered for strikes, riots and protests, but it will depend on when you purchased your travel insurance. If you had thought ahead, and bought your travel insurance in advance, you’re likely to be covered.”
Similarly, direct online travel insurer Zoom Travel Insurance reported an influx of queries overnight.
Marketing Manager, Kate Smith says,
“Customer queries regarding strikes and resulting congestion are coming thick and fast. If you’re a Zoom customer and your trip has been directly affected by the strikes you may have provision to claim. It’s best to contact Zoom’s claims team as it will depend on when you purchased your policy and the type of policy purchased."
DFAT has advised that Australians travelling to Hong Kong ‘use a high degree of caution' and the airport shutdown has further cemented travel fears.
“The most recent turn of events has raised real concern for those headed to Hong Kong," notes Ball. "There is the sense that the violence is becoming more unpredictable and random.”
Ball urges travellers to use caution and stay away from major protests and government buildings.
“We would advise those travelling to Hong Kong to practise common sense. Avoid large gatherings and don’t undermine the ability for things to get out of hand. A seemingly peaceful protest can quickly escalate into violence.”
Alongside DFAT’s current upgraded travel warning, travellers are asked to ‘monitor local media, exercise vigilance and avoid protests and large public gatherings as they may turn violent.’
“What we are seeing in Hong Kong is the result of a tenuous political period. The situation remains unpredictable and travellers should remain vigilant at this sensitive time and stay well informed. Have important phone numbers stored in an offline location and be sure to register your travels with DFAT.”
Natali is a former kids magazine writer whose credits include working for the mouse (Mickey that is). An avid traveller, Natali spent part of her childhood in Israel and enjoyed several stints across the globe. Having worked in travel insurance for three years, Natali likes to simplify the fine-print and help Aussies make sense of their insurance policies. She currently lives in Sydney with her husband and one-year old son.