Travel insurers need 'radical rethink'

British Airways planeTravel insurers have made themselves look foolish over the proposed BA cabin crew strikes again by giving the impression that travel insurance is worthless. Consumer Group Which? has demanded changes to force insurers to cover what travellers expect to be covered.

And Which? is right on this. Travel insurance covers loads of things already covered on other policies and excludes the essentials most travellers assume they are insuring.

Confusion abounds

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) was reported in the Mail yesterday as telling travellers who booked BA flights after Unite union's strike vote on Monday that they had a "reasonable expectation" of disruption, and will not be covered.

The Telegraph said travel insurance was "complicated". It said: "You can claim abandonment of your holiday and the consequential loss, if you can prove that you have been delayed by 12 hours or more.

"But your insurer will need a letter from the airline confirming that the cancellation involves such a delay, and it is likely only to consider cancellations which have been made at short notice.

"And obviously it will only apply if you bought the insurance (and the travel arrangements) before you knew about the strikes.

Small print exclusions

The Guardian said: "You need to check the small print, as not all standard policies cover flight delays and cancellations caused by industrial action. Those that do rely on a muddled array of factors, including the type of strike and when the policy was issued.

"If BA cancels the flight you may be able to claim back the cost of a new flight, and in some cases the cost of the whole holiday. Before you book a new flight check that your insurer will cover any difference in the cost. But if you decide to cancel your holiday it is unlikely your policy will cover you.

ABI in denial

The ABI told Daily Finance it had briefed a Mail reporter but not the one who wrote the story, and the Mail was wrong. It said:

"ABI members providing travel insurance have confirmed that cover under the travel policy will continue in respect of travel insurance taken out up to the date when any strike day/s are announce. This includes the period from this Monday's ballot announcement up to the date of any strike day/s announced.

"In the event of the flight being delayed, you may be able to claim under your travel insurance, providing that you took out the policy before the actual date when the dates of any shrike action were announced.

"If any delay forces you to cancel your travel plans, then some policies may also cover you for a fixed lump sum. People should check the terms and conditions of their policy, and contact their travel insurer for clarification if they are unsure.

"Cover under travel insurance for cancellation in these circumstances will vary. People should check the terms and conditions of their policy, as cover typically will be for specified risks such as illness, redundancy, jury service, but not industrial action, while other policies may provide this cover.

But not so says BIBA

But British Insurance Brokers' Association (BIBA) technical expert Graeme Trudgill said BIBA's own travel policy insurer Tokyo, had told him it was refusing to cover the risk of cancelled BA flight at once.

What's the point?

Rochelle Turner, head of research for Which? Holiday, said: "There's no consistency in travel insurance. 41% will cover an airline failure, 79% would cover an end supplier going bust, some don't cover strikes at all. Travel insurance needs a radical re-think.

"If the flight does not take off for whatever reason then you should be able to claim on your travel insurance. What is the point of getting insurance if it won't cover all the things I want to be covered for?"

Insurers are doing themselves a disservice with travel insurance. They have produced a cheap, rubbishy policy based on as many exclusions as they can, instead of offering top-quality protection. That is what insurance should be all about.

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