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Visiting E Asia - coronavirus

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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 08:33   #1
dantheman
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Visiting E Asia - coronavirus

Have booked flights to Japan in March - the girlfriend had saved up and been wanting to visit for a few years now and wanted to see the cherry blossom and culture etc. I will tag along and turn it into a birding trip.

We booked sometime in the new year, cheap flights with Air China (through Carlton Leisure), changing in Shanghai en route. A week or so later, the coronavirus thing kicked off unfortunately.

I understand we may be able to get refunds, and wouldn't want to panic cancel, but are we on the tip of something bigger (it's hard to tell, and if travel restrictions will tighten considerably (flights can be re-routed of course, but will inter-country travel get more restricted))?

Haven't booked anything else yet, but what is gut feeling - leave it for this time, or wait a few more weeks before looking to cancel? Will the trip likely be a mess or a risk with travel worries/delays etc? She would want to be organised and pre-book accommodation, japan rail pass, rail tickets to London (lots cheaper in advance) etc. No point in spending out loads that you lose money/deposits on.

(Sympathies of course to all those already caught up in this on the ground.)
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 09:35   #2
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It's a difficult one. Do you have travel insurance? The FCO has a travel advisory for the whole of China, which may mean that you can cancel your flights and claim on your policy.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 11:40   #3
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It's a difficult one. Do you have travel insurance? The FCO has a travel advisory for the whole of China, which may mean that you can cancel your flights and claim on your policy.


In light of the FCO advice, I's expect most airlines and tour operators to be amenable and either alllow cancellation or offer an alternative but, It may also mean the invalidation of your travel insurance if the situation is ongoing and you travel against FCO advice.

If it were me I think I'd aim for a different continent, the blossoms will still be there next year.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 12:26   #4
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Really think you should start by asking if Air China will refund your ticket price due to the outbreak, and if not then go the insurance policy route.
The main issue is probably not the risk of contracting the virus, but the risk of being quarantined on arrival either in Japan or UK, or not allowed to fly in the first place.
Appreciate that you've tried to save money on flights, but you could then rebook with someone like KLM, probably from Bristol (or Exeter??) via Amsterdam which would cut down your UK rail fare costs. Accommodation in Japan isn't always that cheap, but if you book traditional inn type accomodation and don't mind shared facilities (including shared showers ) they're great, and can help shave off some of the extra airfare costs. Also, perhaps surprisingly, small 'business' hotels in cities can be good value.
The Japan Rail Pass is amazingly good value, but it needs to be booked sufficiently far in advance - as I recall they send forms to you by post, which you then need to exchange for an actual pass at a rail station. I used it to get from Tokyo to Kyoto to do the tourist thing after birding in Hokkaido, then travelled all the way back to Furano in Hokkaido from Kyoto to go skiing. Timescales for getting the rail pass sorted are therefore critical.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 14:25   #5
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One other warning about connecting in Shanghai. They will not forward your bags and let you connect air-side, even though you are connecting international to international. They insist you get a visa on arrival, clear immigration, claim your bags, and then carry them to your connecting flight and check them in again. After that you have to go back through security and immigration.

I had a 3 hour connection and I needed 2-1/2 hours of it for all the rigamarole. With the coronavirus issues, it'll probably take even longer.

Note that this is different from every other airport in China. It's unique to Shanghai.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 19:38   #6
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Air France via Paris (C. de G.) is another option if you decide to re-book the flight - at least I hope it will in a weeks time!
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 19:58   #7
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Thanks all for the advice and thoughts (and good luck foresttwitcher!)

It turns out that today is the last day of our 14 day 'cooling off period' for travel insurance, but our actual flights with Carlton Leisure are 'non-refundable and non-amendable due to being budget tickets!' (Something neither of us noted when booking, interestingly). So Air China would give a full refund, CL wouldn't ... interestingly ... So we'll keep the travel insurance (it's also single trip worldwide if we go elsewhere instead)

In the case that the flights don't go at all it appears from our insurance (More Than) we could claim, or we could cancel if yes, we think it's going to be too restrictive once we're there ...

Personally I'd scrap it and go to the Canaries again for a week for a chill, and save a good lump of money to go next year maybe, but we'll see ... apparently you can pick the Japan Rail pass up at the airport so we have a few weeks for final decision and think we could actually book stuff pretty late.

(Noted - Shanghai, cheers. Although there is a pretty good chance if the flights are going they will do re-routed elsewhere through Asia perhaps?)
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 21:06   #8
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My own opinion is is you could get the flight changed so it didn't connect through China, that is all I would do. Japan isn't China, and may never get the virus, and if they do they will be able to probably deal with it quickly. Locally we have had confirmed cases in Madison Wisconsin and Chicago IL...if it can pop up there sure it can pop up in Japan, but it could also pop up in Cornwall...
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 21:41   #9
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My own opinion is is you could get the flight changed so it didn't connect through China, that is all I would do. Japan isn't China, and may never get the virus, and if they do they will be able to probably deal with it quickly. Locally we have had confirmed cases in Madison Wisconsin and Chicago IL...if it can pop up there sure it can pop up in Japan, but it could also pop up in Cornwall...
Japan has 45 cases - the most outside of China with numbers boosted by the cruise ship that arrived the other day.
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Old Friday 7th February 2020, 13:12   #10
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Air France via Paris (C. de G.) is another option if you decide to re-book the flight - at least I hope it will in a weeks time!
Being owned by the same company, I think they operate more or less interchangeably with KLM in terms of booking tickets - Japan trip was a good example, flew out via Amsterdam on KLM, back via Paris on Air France. Both have good connections to UK regional airports, although KLM has the edge up here with 3 flights a day.

Didn't realise Japan Rail Pass could be purchased inside Japan - just checked on the web and it does say 'prices vary from those purchased outside Japan' so it may be worth checking by how much they vary, and in which direction! Also important to get your passport stamped with 'temporary visitor' on entry, although I think this is going to happen anyway.

I'm with the 'Japan will be OK' camp re coronavirus, most of their cases are held in quarantine on that cruise ship. Japanese people are very conscious of the need to avoid infection, they'll wear face masks routinely to prevent spreading or contracting colds.

I'm staggered that your travel agency will not pursue a refund for you, given the circumstances, irrespective of the ticket restrictions.
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Old Saturday 8th February 2020, 10:53   #11
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On a blossom note, the BBC travel show which just aired today, has said that the blossoms have come early this year. There is apparently a 'blossom tracker' app that you can download.
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Old Saturday 8th February 2020, 13:45   #12
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I mean this is actually a valid point. It made me think again about my Australia plan, as the clearest path includes a layover in Singapore (which is tightly connected with China). I am sure that if the flights get cancelled, you just get the money back no matter what (or at least I would, living where I am living, I don't wanna get into more details seeing Andy is in the thread :)), but I am a little worried about booking anything on the ground that would be non-refundable, as any Aussies involved don't have to give a damn that I wasn't able to actually get there ...

As if the Australia trip wasn't already difficult enough ...
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Old Saturday 8th February 2020, 16:24   #13
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I mean this is actually a valid point. It made me think again about my Australia plan, as the clearest path includes a layover in Singapore (which is tightly connected with China). I am sure that if the flights get cancelled, you just get the money back no matter what (or at least I would, living where I am living, I don't wanna get into more details seeing Andy is in the thread :)), but I am a little worried about booking anything on the ground that would be non-refundable, as any Aussies involved don't have to give a damn that I wasn't able to actually get there ...

As if the Australia trip wasn't already difficult enough ...
No idea what that's supposed to mean?
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Old Sunday 9th February 2020, 17:25   #14
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I mean...By all means cancel the Japan trip, but also keep in mind that the scare over Coronavirus is a bit..overblown. For context, last year 600 people in the UK died from complications from the Flu. Unless you have small children, are elderly, or have some sort of weakened immune system, its probably nothing that would keep me up late at night when debating travel.
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Old Sunday 9th February 2020, 17:25   #15
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No idea what that's supposed to mean?
I assume a reference to the distance involved in that travel, and the cost?
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Old Sunday 9th February 2020, 17:42   #16
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I mean...By all means cancel the Japan trip, but also keep in mind that the scare over Coronavirus is a bit..overblown. For context, last year 600 people in the UK died from complications from the Flu. Unless you have small children, are elderly, or have some sort of weakened immune system, its probably nothing that would keep me up late at night when debating travel.
Yes, it's not a big worry in some respects ... It's more the worry of lockdown, quarantine or other travel restrictions ruining the trip in what is a developing situation (seems likely that it going to get worse, as opposed to the other way around?)

There is currently a UK Gov warning against all but essential travel to the whole of China, which would invalidate travel insurance if we did that for our connection (I believe). We can investigate how China Eastern Airlines (that is our actual carrier) intend to get us to Japan if that is still the situation, but it is still 5 weeks to go, so that may not be known currently.

(This would be our first foreign trip (holiday even, other than visiting relatives) since 2013, and taken a while to save up for, hence it's a bit of a deal knowing that we're doing the right thing ... )
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Old Monday 10th February 2020, 12:10   #17
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Yes, it's not a big worry in some respects ... It's more the worry of lockdown, quarantine or other travel restrictions ruining the trip in what is a developing situation (seems likely that it going to get worse, as opposed to the other way around?)

There is currently a UK Gov warning against all but essential travel to the whole of China, which would invalidate travel insurance if we did that for our connection (I believe). We can investigate how China Eastern Airlines (that is our actual carrier) intend to get us to Japan if that is still the situation, but it is still 5 weeks to go, so that may not be known currently.

(This would be our first foreign trip (holiday even, other than visiting relatives) since 2013, and taken a while to save up for, hence it's a bit of a deal knowing that we're doing the right thing ... )
I can really sympathise with how you must feel right now - my trip to Japan was quite a big deal for me too made possible due to a small 'windfall' from a pension scheme I'd paid into in a previous job years before - I'd have been gutted to find it all going pear-shaped five weeks before travel.

I've said it before, but you really must press your travel agents for a refund, then try China Eastern direct, and if you get no joy from either then a call to a consumer advice service may be in order.

We used an agent (Trailfinders) to book our Japan trip, because we had a complex sequence of flights (Newcastle to Hong Kong, then HK - Tokyo - Kushiro, Kushiro - Tokyo, then Tokyo - Sapporo, Sapporo - Tokyo, Tokyo - Newcastle). I wanted to get the train to Sapporo / Furano but the travel agent told me they'd booked it as part of a 3 flight sequence from Kushiro, and I would void the final leg if I didn't show for the 2nd. I decided to take the train anyway, as I wanted the experience of riding the bullet train to Hokkaido, then turned up at Sapporo airport to find absolutely no problem with boarding my flight - in fact ANA couldn't have been more helpful, and booked me on an earlier departure. Apart from getting a better deal on the two NCL - HK / Tokyo - NCL flights the agent was useless and unnecessary.

Moral of this long story, the airline may be willing to give you a refund if the agent won't - I think the chances of them re-routing you on a different airline are possibly lower, at least if their flights are not actually cancelled yet, but its worth asking. Personally I would then rebook with a different airline which isn't going anywhere near China - you may yet get a good deal, as I suspect some will be tarring anywhere in East Asia with the same brush and avoiding travel to the region. I would then be optimistic about being able to have a great and hassle free time in Japan - however, I think things have got plenty time to get worse in China over the next 5 weeks, so would be doing all I can to avoid that Shanghai transfer.
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Old Monday 10th February 2020, 12:51   #18
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We used an agent (Trailfinders) to book our Japan trip, because we had a complex sequence of flights (Newcastle to Hong Kong, then HK - Tokyo - Kushiro, Kushiro - Tokyo, then Tokyo - Sapporo, Sapporo - Tokyo, Tokyo - Newcastle). I wanted to get the train to Sapporo / Furano but the travel agent told me they'd booked it as part of a 3 flight sequence from Kushiro, and I would void the final leg if I didn't show for the 2nd. I decided to take the train anyway, as I wanted the experience of riding the bullet train to Hokkaido, then turned up at Sapporo airport to find absolutely no problem with boarding my flight - in fact ANA couldn't have been more helpful, and booked me on an earlier departure. Apart from getting a better deal on the two NCL - HK / Tokyo - NCL flights the agent was useless and unnecessary.

I would then be optimistic about being able to have a great and hassle free time in Japan - however, I think things have got plenty time to get worse in China over the next 5 weeks, so would be doing all I can to avoid that Shanghai transfer.
Sorry for the tangent but a prior flight not being taken, voiding any future flights is extremely annoying and I see no valid reason for it. During a long trip I took in 07, I had to return unexpectedly for my mums funeral. I was due to fly from Mumbai to Sri Lanka then on to China a few weeks later then Thailand, Indonesia etc but as I was back in the UK, I thought it made sense to fly direct to Sri Lanka instead of flying back to India and on from there. Luckily I checked with the airlines because it would have voided ALL my future flights, about five of them!

On the second point above, I agree, another five weeks and I can see that the situation could still be pretty bad in China if not worse by then, a quandry I wouldn't like to be faced with. The best case scenario for Dan maybe a total halt on flights to or via China if things get worse, not sure that's likely though.
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Old Sunday 16th February 2020, 10:10   #19
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Good luck with what you decide!! There is a cherry blossom route in Spain near to the Spanish/Portuguese boarder in March.
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