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’, UK-based consumer organisation Which? found that this means different things for different providers. It found that many policies exclude plausible – and often expensive – scenarios, such as new lockdowns in the UK or the 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 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 it 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.
Thirty-four policies received lowest ranking
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.
Only four per cent cover cancellations due to quarantine
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.
Gareth Shaw, Head of Which? Money, commented: “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.”
ITIJ has looked back over 2020, detailing how, over the course of 12 tumultuous months, the global travel insurance market adapted to changing consumer needs and what it is doing now to further strengthen its offering.