Which? is advising travellers to take care when buying travel insurance ahead of a summer of predicted disruption, as new research from the consumer champion reveals four in 10 policies offer no protection for cancellations caused by strikes.
Which? assessed 199 policies offered by 71 providers and rated them dependent on the level of protection offered in 61 key areas for its annual review of travel insurance.
With the prospect of industrial action understandably riding high on the list of travellers’ concerns this year, many will be keen to ensure they are covered in the event they need to cancel their trip.
However, just six in 10 (120) of the policies Which? looked at offered cover if travellers have to cancel a trip due to strikes, meaning a significant proportion of travellers could find themselves unprotected. Four in 10 policies (78) did not provide cover for cancellations due to strikes, while for one policy it was an optional extra.
Covid cover is another area where Which? found huge disparities in the level of cover offered – and it remains important, with cases on the rise due to new variants of the Omicron strain of the virus.
Of the 199 policies the consumer champion examined, fewer than one in 10 (9) offered what it considers to be ‘Complete’ protection in the event of a holiday being disrupted by Covid. This means that travellers can claim for emergency medical care if they catch Covid while abroad, and have the option to claim cancellation costs if they test positive for Covid before their trip. These policies also provide cover should the legal requirement to self-isolate be reintroduced for those identified as close contacts. They can also claim if, after booking their trip, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advises against travel to their destination because of Covid, or because of regional or national restrictions on movement.
Two-thirds of policies (131) offered what the consumer champion considers ‘Superior’ level Covid cover, meaning that the policy covers travellers for emergency medical care and cancellations due to catching Covid, as well as offering cover in the event that legal requirements to self-isolate are reintroduced.
Three in 10 policies (55) were rated ‘Low’ for the cover offered, providing emergency medical cover for contracting Covid abroad and the ability to claim if cancelling a trip due to testing positive. A further two per cent of policies analysed (4) were considered ‘Basic’, only providing emergency medical cover in the event of catching Covid while abroad.
Anyone who has their holiday cancelled by a package tour operator is entitled to a refund by law. Airlines are also obligated to refund passengers when they cancel flights – including when the cancellation is caused by their own staff going on strike.
Likewise, package holidays from an ATOL protected firm will ensure that you’ll be reimbursed should the company go out of business and repatriated if it happens while you’re abroad.
Which? also advises that wherever possible, holidays should be purchased via credit card, as your credit card provider is legally bound to reimburse you for any purchase over £100 if services provided are not as advertised, and the company responsible won’t refund you.
Jenny Ross, Which? Money Editor says:
“With many airlines warning of widespread disruption this summer and Covid cases on the rise, travellers should ensure they’ve taken out adequate insurance to cover any losses or unexpected costs they might face.
“Which? analysis of 199 policies shows that levels of cover can vary wildly in important areas like disruption caused by strike action or Covid.
“We advise travellers to always check policies carefully to ensure they offer the cover that will be most appropriate to their trip, and to ensure they have cover in place from the time of booking.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
– To establish policy scores, Which? surveyed 71 insurance companies about 61 different areas of cover from each of their policies, in May 2022. These ratings do not examine the insurers’ customer service or how much their policies cost.
– Of 199 policies analysed, 120 offer protection if travellers have to cancel a trip due to strike action, 1 offers it as an optional extra, and 78 policies do not offer any coverage.
– Which? is campaigning for a major overhaul of the travel industry, calling on Grant Shapps to set out a timetable for reforms to the CAA, giving it the tools and teeth to hold to account companies that break the rules and ignore the law. Find more here: https://campaigns.which.co.uk/travel/
Which? Tips for ensuring your travel insurance provides the cover you need:
- Before taking out insurance, always check the policy wording to ensure you understand what it offers and any limitations.
- If there are specific reasons you’re buying the cover, check these sections to make sure they align with your expectations. Some policies specify – and so limit cover to – certain causes of delay or cancellation such as strike, mechanical failure or adverse weather.
- Though airlines have to refund you the cost of a cancelled flight or reroute you and pay compensation if the flight was cancelled less than 14 days before departure, additional costs incurred such as emergency accommodation and meals won’t always be met by your carrier. It may therefore be worth exploring policies which can plug this gap.
- It is important to check claim limits to ensure they meet your individual requirements, as these can vary significantly. For example, in the case of cancellation due to serious delays or disruption to transport, Which? found that the average claim limit was £4110.22, with the most generous policies offering up to £15,000.
- Also check the policy’s general exclusions and conditions. If anything in the policy is unclear, contact the insurer.
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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