Mass. Travel Agencies Frustrated With Coronavirus Travel Fears

"I've been doing this 43 years now, and I haven't seen clients panic like they're panicking now," said Dedham Travel Agency President Terry Strauss.

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Fears over the coronavirus are leading to a sudden influx of flight changes and cancellation requests.

"Insurance doesn't cover fear, and so everyone is losing their money because the airlines are not giving them a refund," said Dedham Travel Agency President Terry Strauss.

Strauss says there's frustration among local travel agencies that public officials have stepped in and instructed people to cancel international travel, without any plans to backup that demand with financial help.

"I think there's a certain person in Boston," said Strauss, referring to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, "who has put the fear into everyone, including all the school groups that are all losing their money."

“OK, I'll try to continue and go back and forth with the airline," said Brookline-based BLER Travel President Shimshon Erenfeld on the phone.

Erenfeld spent pretty much his whole day going back and forth with not only several individual clients, but a group of more than 100 Harvard University students trying to reschedule a trip to Israel.

"At this point, I would say it's 80% is redoing or cancelling what we have," said Erenfeld.

And that's taking a financial toll on their business, the airlines and beyond.

"It's very difficult, we don't know how we will survive financially," Erenfeld said. "It's very difficult time."

Strauss says her clients are calling wondering, in light of COVID-19 being declared an epidemic in some countries, what sorts of rights they have.

The answer is not many.

"An epidemic is not covered by insurance," said Strauss. "No company is going to cover an epidemic or they'd all be out of business."

Some airlines and hotels are allowing changes free of charge – but there are restrictions.

"Some companies are allowing you to push the trip out up to a year, and if they do that, they won't lose any money," Strauss said.

If you're looking to book travel for the summer or beyond, you can purchase travel insurance where you can cancel for any reason – then you would get back about 75% of what you spent.

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