Summer holiday COVID chaos? What UK holidaymakers might think travel insurance covers, but are wrong
20 May 2021
This week thousands of desperate holidaymakers jetted off to Portugal for some sunshine. But many popular destinations such as Spain, France, and Greece remain on the amber list of countries which means quarantine rules apply.
With so much confusion on where and how we can travel this summer, many people are not aware of the travel insurance cover available and what financial protection some holidaymakers may already have through other financial products.
Recent surveys of consumer awareness show worryingly large gaps in people’s knowledge of what travel insurance can cover you against, and the variety of new risks triggered by the pandemic when travelling abroad.
Fiona Macrae, head of consumer awareness initiative, travelinsuranceexplained.co.uk offers advice on the misunderstandings surrounding Covid-19 cover:
Will I be covered by my travel insurer to visit a destination on the amber list?
The majority of travel insurers will continue to provide cover for travellers visiting destinations on the “amber” list, so long as they do not travel against the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office’s (FCDO) advice.
Anyone booking a holiday will need to check the FCDO’s advice before travelling, regardless of which traffic light category the country is in, as, should the FCDO advise against travel to a particular destination, and holidaymakers still decide to travel, it is unlikely they will be covered for any claims submitted to their travel insurer.
If travellers were to arrive in an “amber” destination and the FCDO was to suddenly change its advice to that particular country, most providers would continue to provide cover until the holidaymaker returned home. Anyone found in this situation on an extended holiday (a trip longer than 28 days) would be expected to make every effort to return to the UK as soon as possible.
If the Government says one thing, and the FCDO advice is different, where do I stand?
If the FCDO advice and traffic light system is not consistent, travellers should follow the FCDO’s guidance. The reason we say this is because the majority of travel insurance policies do not provide cover if holidaymakers travel against the FCDO advice.
Will I be covered by my insurer if my travel operator or airline decides not to fly to a specific country?
Most travel insurance providers do not provide cancellation cover due to a change in government advice related to Covid-19 as, in most cases, financial protection in this scenario is available to travellers elsewhere and charging a customer for this type of cover would not be seen as fair value.
So if a tour operator or airline were to decide that they are no longer flying to a specific destination and cancels any upcoming flights or holidays, then it is their responsibility to offer those affected a full refund or opportunity to rebook their trip at a later date.
If for whatever reason, the tour operator and/or airline is unable to provide reimbursement or any alternative option, holidaymakers can also contact their bank and request a refund under the ‘Chargeback’ scheme. Additionally, if they booked their trip with a credit card, they may also be able to claim back costs under ‘Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act’. However, the holiday must have cost more than £100 to do so.
Only then, after all other providers have been contacted, should travellers contact their travel insurer to see if they can help or offer any further advice.
Am I covered if my family and friends test positive for COVID-19 before the holiday?
Possibly! Some travel insurers offer cover if one of the travelling party tests positives for Covid-19 and, as a result, has to isolate and cancel the trip. However, this is not standard on all policies so travellers will need to check their policy wording for this type of cover.
A handful of insurers have also recently introduced cover if the policyholder comes into contact with someone before their trip who tests positive for Covid-19 and therefore has to isolate. This is significant because up until only recently most insurers would only allow a trip to be cancelled due to Covid-19 if someone named on the policy caught the virus themselves.
If I am eligible for a vaccine passport what does that mean for my travel insurance cover? Do I still need insurance?
Travel insurance is essential regardless of any new travel passports, traffic light categories, or documentation required to enter a destination. Not only do the majority of travel insurance providers offer protection against the many risks that Covid-19 poses, such as contracting Covid-19 and requiring emergency medical treatment while abroad, but it also protects against all other elements that could affect a holiday.
For example, trip cancellation due to a family member falling unwell, reimbursement due to departure delay, or cover for lost luggage should travellers arrive at a destination without their suitcase.
Will I be covered to cancel my trip if I am unable to provide the right documentation?
Travellers are now required to provide a passenger locator form, proof of a Covid-19 status, and/or proof of a vaccine to leave the UK and enter most countries.
If holidaymakers fail to provide the required evidence, such as proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken up to 72 hours before departure, and as a result are refused entry to a destination, in most cases, they will not be covered to claim for any lost costs. It is the responsibility of the traveller to make sure they have the correct documentation to leave and enter their intended destination when travelling.
Is there any other comprehensive travel insurance cover that can be purchased to cover all COVID-19 risks?
Many travel insurance providers offer some form of protection against Covid-19, but it is important to remember that protection varies from provider to provider. Therefore, it is down to individuals to research the cover most suitable for their circumstances and choose a policy based on their exact needs.
As mentioned previously, a small number of insurers have recently introduced cancellation cover if holidaymakers come into contact with someone who has Covid-19 before their trip and therefore has to isolate. Whereas before, most insurers would only allow trip cancellation if one of the travelling party caught Covid-19 themselves.
Many UK travellers have also been taking advantage of the low deposit holiday deals offered by tour operators which have led some travel insurers to introduce a new policy specifically for those who have bought a holiday but have only paid the deposit. The cover offered varies between providers, but if a customer has only paid the deposit but is unable to go on holiday before the full balance is due, they are able to claim for cancellation costs, without having to pay any policy excess. Additionally, if they have already paid their holiday balance in full but need to cancel their trip, they will still be covered for cancellation costs but will have to pay their excess.
Travel insurance in general and cover for Covid-19 varies between providers. Therefore, holidaymakers must take the time to research the different types of cover available and carefully read the policy wording before buying.
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Notes to editors:
Travel Insurance Explained is a multimedia awareness campaign that has been created to be an impartial voice to help you understand travel insurance, so should you need to make a claim you will be delighted with the outcome.
Our goals are:
To help consumers understand what a policy can and cannot cover
- To explain insurance jargon in everyday terms
- To give consumers the tools they need to ensure they get the most appropriate policy
- To help reduce disputed claims and therefore increase consumers satisfaction
- To match the consumers’ requirements to ensure they are buying a suitable policy for their needs at an appropriate price.