Travel Insurance - Cancellation, Lost Luggage & Delays

Posted on: 17 June 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Are you covered against airport chaos by your travel insurance policy?


With the chaos that surrounded the opening of Heathrow's Terminal 5, the issue of baggage being lost or delayed is prominent. Regular terrorism alerts and strikes also cause delays and cancellations. Check your travel insurance will cover you with our guide.

Choose The Right Travel Insurance

A comprehensive guide to ensure you're covered in the event of holiday emergencies.

Cancellation

With two-thirds of holidaymakers taking out travel insurance less than two weeks before they fly, and nearly half waiting until the last week to take out cover, travellers could be out of pocket if their holiday is unavoidably cancelled. Holidaymakers who book flights but leave their insurance until the last moment will miss out on valuable cancellation cover which will protect them for all or part of their flight if the trip is avoidably cancelled.

It's wise to take out insurance as soon as the holiday is booked. That way, unforeseen circumstances such as serious injury, illness or bereavement are potentially covered if a holiday needs to be cancelled.

With the increasing threat of airport strike action and political unrest, it is also worth reading the small print to see whether you are covered in these circumstances and checking FCO advice on foreign travel.

Some providers offer up to £3,000 worth of cancellation protection and others only £750, according to Moneysupermarket, which might not be enough to cover flights for the whole family.

Those who cancel their holiday because of any pre-existing medical conditions, the death or illness of a pet, or travel phobias, stress or anxiety, may not be covered.

Prepare For Travel Trouble

Always check the maximum amount you are covered for in your travel insurance policy. If your policy only covers the first £1000 of suitcase contents value, that can be easily swallowed up by expensive gadgets such as a laptop. It is also worth checking your home insurance policy to see if your belongings are covered while outside of the home.

In addition to your plane tickets and other essential travel documents you should always carry a copy of your travel insurance policy in your hand luggage. This way, if there are any problems you can call your insurer immediately who should be able to provide the essentials you need for your holiday while you wait for your luggage to be recovered.

Some insurers provide an International Assistance Card and it is also worth giving a copy of policy numbers/important phone numbers to family members.

Many people carry mobile phones in their handluggage but you should also carry your phone charger and travel adapter in there too. This way you can avoid any problems at a time when you really need to be able to contact your insurer, tour operator, family and so on.

Carry any essential medication in your hand luggage as it can be expensive to replace medication in a foreign country. Also carry other useful items such as a toothbrush and a spare pair of underwear to last you until your luggage is recovered.

If you've lost luggage, keep receipts, valuations and photographs of any items. Valuable items are not usually covered by travel insurance policies if they are in the hold. Always pack valuable items in hand luggage or keep them with you during the flight.

You should report any loss or theft to the police within 24 hours. If you are unable to contact the police, you should call either your tour representative or accommodation provider or carrier, for example, the airline or ferry company you travelled with.

Lost Luggage

When travelling abroad, if your luggage is lost or delayed and you need to purchase items such as a change of clothes, hygiene products or any other necessary items, you would expect your insurance policy to reimburse you.

Defaqto has looked into the single trip travel insurance market to see what cover is provided for lost and delayed baggage. The research noted that 14 per cent of single trip policies do not provide any cover for delayed baggage and 40 per cent of single trip policies only provide a maximum cover of £100 or less for delayed baggage.

Delays

Similarly, if your flight was delayed you would expect your insurance policy to provide some form of compensation for you being stuck in the airport lounge. Most policies offer some compensation for a late or cancelled flight, ferry or train.

Defaqto has looked into the single trip travel insurance market to see what cover is provided for being delayed at an airport. 40 per cent of single trip policies only provide a maximum cover of £100 or less for compensation for flights being delayed. 74 per cent of single trip policies provide £20 or less for the first 12 hours of being delayed at the airport. 82 per cent of single trip policies provide £20 or less for the each subsequent 12 hours of being delayed at the airport.

Travellers who've been delayed should first call the airline to discuss short term compensation and obtain written confirmation of the delay, reasons for it and exact length. Depending on the length of the delay your airline should provide you with compensation for 'reasonable provisions' for food and drink, two free phone calls, emails, faxes and overnight accommodation where necessary.

Then travellers should call their insurer about their ability to make a claim. Monetary limits and deadlines vary between insurers so you need to check your policy meticulously. Your flight or luggage may have to be delayed for more than 12 hours before your insurer will pay out.

Ditching Package Holidays For DIY?

British holidaymakers are choosing cheaper prices and increased choice over the traditional package holiday, but the decline of the travel agent and rise of the internet and budget airlines is pushing the limits of existing insurance policies.

Research by M&S Money reveals that the surge in internet usage and the huge variety of holidays available on internet travel sites has led 50 per cent of online Brits to choose to book holidays independently. 29 per cent of us are booking each element of our holiday individually, including flights and accommodation. The downside of this is that no one holds overall responsibility for any one trip and, in the absence of a travel rep, 'DIY' bookers are on their own. 

This move away from the travel agent booked package has blurred the lines of responsibility and highlighted the increasing risk of individuals not being covered by their travel insurance policy. Traditionally, if an international flight was cancelled or delayed causing a traveller to miss a later journey, the agent would organise alternative arrangements. However a series of flights booked separately would not all be covered by one operator or travel insurance policy; most would only cover the initial international flight.

M&S Money found that 35 per cent of UK travellers encountered a cancellation or delayed departure during their last trip and of these as many as 21 per cent of those who encountered these sorts of problems whilst travelling independently, found they were not covered at all for the problems they faced. 

This is because traditional insurance policies cover holiday-makers in the event of a delay, usually in excess of 12 hours, but often do not cover a cancellation and its effect on the subsequent travel and accommodation. Were the traveller to have booked with a tour operator they would find them another flight or refund their money, however travelling independently you must sort yourself out.

The problems associated with this were illustrated by the recent launch of Heathrow Terminal 5. Many travellers found that in the event of the cancellation of their original outgoing flight, if they were unable to meet their subsequent connection booked through another airline they had to purchase a further flight at their own expense.

Web Links

Holidaymakers can check how their travel policy compares with any other product in the market by using Defaqto's Compare tool, which shows the key items of cover for each of the single trip, annual travel and winter sports policies held on Defaqto's database. It's available online at: www.defaqto.com

Price comparison website: www.moneysupermarket.com

Price comparison website: www.confused.com

Insurance comparison website: www.insurancewide.com

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