Fewer than one in 100 travel insurance policies provide ‘Complete’ cover for Covid disruption, a Which? analysis of more than 250 policies has revealed.
As disruption to international travel continues, buying good quality insurance has never been more important.
While some travel insurers boast of offering impressive-sounding ‘Covid cover’, Which? found that this means different things for different providers. The consumer champion found that many policies exclude plausible – and often expensive – scenarios, such as new lockdowns in the UK or destination country.
Which? looked at 263 travel insurance policies’ Covid cover and gave them ratings ranging from ‘Basic’, to ‘Low’, ‘Superior’ and ‘Complete’.
Just two policies, HSBC Select and Cover and Barclays Travel Pack, were rated as ‘Complete’, which meant that they protected travellers against:
- Cancellation due to changes in advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) or government lockdowns prohibiting travel;
- Testing positive for Covid or being told to self-isolate;
- Medical costs and repatriation.
Both of these policies are available to customers of these banks and can only be bought alongside other insurance products.
A further 85 policies were ranked ‘Superior’, providing cancellation cover for travellers having to self-isolate without a positive test, but not for FCDO advice changing. Policies with ‘Superior’ Covid cover included those from popular providers such as AA, AXA and Staysure.
Just over half of the policies (142) were ranked ‘Low’, including policies from Nationwide, Admiral and the Post Office. This means that they offer some cancellation cover – but that does not go as far as covering travellers for cancelling in the event of needing to self-isolate without having a positive Covid test result.
There were 34 policies ranked ‘Basic’, the lowest ranking. ‘Basic’ policies provide travellers with cover for Covid-related emergency medical costs and repatriation, but not for cancelling a trip if a traveller contracts Covid. Among well known providers offering some ‘Basic’ policies were Direct Travel, esure and Sheilas’ Wheels.
Every policy analysed offered cover for medical and repatriation costs for travellers that had caught Covid-19 whilst travelling.
Which?’s research also calculated the percentage of policies that would cover travellers for different kinds of specific Covid-related disruption – whether before travelling or while away.
Only a third (33 per cent) offered cover if travellers cancelled because they were told to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app.
Just fewer than one in five (16 per cent) policies offered cover for passengers returning early if advice from the FCDO changed while they were abroad.
One in ten (10 per cent) policies offered cover for hotel closures before departure and one in five (17 per cent) offered cover if a hotel closes while travellers are on holiday.
Only five per cent offered cancellation cover in the event of a lockdown in the UK, either local or national, that prohibits travellers from leaving the country.
Just four per cent of policies cover cancellations if travellers are forced to quarantine at their destination, and only three per cent offer the protection if travellers do not travel because they would have to quarantine upon their return to the UK. This could be a consequence of a country moving from one list to another on the government’s red/amber/green list, as happened to Portugal recently.
Last month, Which? research revealed that many travellers were being left with a false impression about the level of protection they would benefit from if the pandemic was to impact their plans. Confusion over travel insurers using terms such as ‘Covid cover’ and ‘enhanced’ or ‘extra’ Covid cover, which do not have standard agreed definitions across the industry, may have contributed to many consumers thinking that they were more protected from disruption than they were.
Which? is calling for the government to work with regulators, such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), to make every effort to ensure all travellers adequately understand their travel insurance cover and can access cover that protects them against sudden changes to travel restrictions when they would otherwise struggle to get their money back. It should also be giving as much notice as possible if rules change.
Travel and insurance providers should be giving travellers clear information about their policies, including those relevant to cancelled flights, changes in travel advice and refunds, and clearly highlighting the policies’ limitations. The FCA should monitor how well insurers are presenting this information.
Which? recommends that anyone looking to buy travel insurance consults Which?’s thorough, impartial and consistent assessment of Covid cover levels across the market – which is being made available for free to all consumers from today (15 June).
Gareth Shaw, Head of Which? Money, said:
“As the removal of Portugal from the green list shows, last-minute disruption to holiday plans can happen – and our research shows that many travel insurers don’t offer much protection if it does.
“The government should work with regulators to ensure that travellers, should they choose to go abroad, are given clear information about what they will and won’t be covered for – and make sure that providers don’t make bold and confusing claims about their cover without being clear about the limitations. ”
Notes to editors
- Due to the impact of the pandemic on the insurance market, Which? has temporarily stopped recommending individual providers. Travel insurance remains extremely important to purchase and Which?’s rating of travel insurance providers’ Covid cover can be found here. Ratings are free for non-members from 15 June.
- Confusion over travel insurance could leave travellers at risk of another summer out of pocket, Which? warns
- Which? advice for travellers
Purchasing good quality travel insurance before a holiday is always a very good idea for the protection and reassurance it provides – but while the global pandemic continues to be a threat to travel we think it’s essential to bear in mind when choosing your policy. Some policies offer next to no cover when it comes to having to cancel your trip for reasons related to the coronavirus, and only a minority provide meaningful cover against several plausible threats to your holiday. These limitations aren’t always clear on providers’ websites – which is why we recommend carefully checking the policy wording before buying cover. You can also check what we think of the Covid Cover within hundreds of policies on our website.
Booking your trip with holiday companies with flexible policies is highly recommended. Ask the operator for assurances that free rebooking is available should a destination move from an amber list to red, or green to amber.
Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.
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