Johnny Baca

By taking advantage of a Cyber Monday offer last November, Johnny Baca purchased a super cheap ticket ($520) to travel on April 22 to the other side of the world — the paradisiacal island of Bali, in Indonesia.

But the current spread of coronavirus outbreak, unchecked throughout much of the world, ended those vacation plans. A few days ago, the Sylmar resident called the airline to cancel his 22-hour trip, which included a stop in Hong Kong.

“I’ve been checking the news and they (Cathay Pacific Airlines) have been canceling flights because there are no passengers,” Baca said.

An airline representative said that it would study the case, because until now, Baca said he was told, “everything is fine and you can travel [at that time].”

But Baca refuses.

“Why should I go — to get sick?” he said.

So Baca has decided to stay home instead of risking possible contact with the disease that — at press time — had already caused more than 8,700 deaths and sickened 212,000 more people  worldwide.

“I am not going anywhere,” he says. “It is not so much the fear of entering the countries (Indonesia and Hong Kong), it is the airports and the planes. The people at the airport are not taking security measures.”

“This year there won’t be any vacations,” Baca said.

Grounded Flights

The pandemic outbreak has caused the Trump Administration to ban travel to and from much of Europe in the Schengen Agreement border-free area, and forced airlines, hotels and travel agencies to be more flexible in terms of cancellations and last-minute changes, said Marie Montgomery, spokesperson for the Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA).

But while some airlines Delta, United and JetBlue are waiving cancellation fees or change fees, this is not a universal practice throughout the industry. And other travelers like Baca, who had purchased travel insurance for their flight or bought their ticket through a third-party agency, are discovering that many policies generally do not cover epidemics or pandemics, meaning they might not get refunds.

Then there are the measures being imposed by other countries.

Many have their travel bans and restrictions. India, for example, is quarantining incoming travelers from China and parts of Europe — including Indian nationals — a minimum of 14 days.

Mexico has also kept some protocols and other travel restrictions  in place to control the flow of people coming across their borders. The Mexican government estimates that approximately 500,000 people could be affected by coronavirus, in a scenario of a widespread transmission when the virus arrives in the country.

Traveling with Caution

Guadalupe Vargas doesn’t want to think about those scenarios.

The Pacoima resident, her husband, and their children are heading to Mexico next April 3. The Mexican family will be godparents in a quinceañera, and decided to head south that week to take advantage of their children’s spring break.

Vargas said she is not afraid of becoming ill from the coronavirus when traveling to her native country. “You don’t want to focus on that or that something bad is going to happen to you.”

Still she’s taking some precautions, including using face masks.

Vargas, who also has diabetes, will get the flu shot before she departs.

But she’s not going to cancel the trip. After many years of being unable to travel to her country, she’s looking forward to finally returning, even for a vacation.

“(When I return) I feel happy, like wanting to stay there,” she said.

Traveling Recommendations

Before taking any trip, you should consult your travel providers or a travel agent for any changes to travel plans or requirements.

 If you purchased travel insurance, carefully review the policy. Travel insurance providers consider coronavirus a “known event” as of Jan. 22, meaning coverage exclusions apply if your plan was purchased after that date. Customers who purchased a plan prior to Jan 22 could still be covered for destinations like China or other impacted areas.

Travel with all necessary travel documentation, including health insurance cards.

Outside the United States, know the nearest location of and contact information for the US embassy or consulate in case of an emergency. Also consider enrolling in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) as an added protection.