Possible flight disruption from Icelandic eruption – travellers warned to check their insurance policies for exclusions

31st August 2014

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Travellers have been urged to check their travel insurance policiesns for policy exclusions before they head off as the Icelandic meteorological office increases its eruption warning for the Bardarbunga volcano.

Comparison site Gocompare has warned that in the event of ash from an eruption disrupting flights, many policies do not cover ‘acts of god’ or natural disasters and urged policyholders to check for exclusions.

Caroline Lloyd, Gocompare.com’s travel insurance spokesperson, says: “This new threat really demonstrates the importance of getting good travel insurance to cover you for most eventualities.

“After the 2010 ash cloud, a number of insurers added a travel disruption element of cover, typically available as an upgrade, or in some instances as a stand-alone policy. If you’ve booked your journey through a tour operator, and are delayed or are unable to travel because of the volcanic ash cloud, then the operator or agent you’ve booked through should be able to assist. Airlines based in the European Union are obliged to provide travellers with accommodation and meals if they are stranded. Passengers should also be entitled to an alternative flight or a full refund.

“Should you find yourself stranded, make sure to let your insurer know, so that you are covered for the duration of any impact.”

But Lloyd also warns that while some insurers have amended policies to cover volcanic ash, others have not. In addition, some policies may not cover disruption to plans, made subsequent to the risk emerging.

“If you’ve travelled independently, check with your insurer what cover you’re entitled to. If you bought your policy before you knew about the ash cloud, it’s likely you’ll have some level of cover. However, this can vary between policies and not all insurers have amended their policies to cover volcanic ash, so it’s well worth calling your insurer and finding out before you go.

“It’s also important to remember that you can’t insure against potential disruption to your holiday plans that you were already aware of, such as a publicly announced airline strike or industrial action. Likewise, if you have booked to travel to the affected area, since the latest announcement, it’s important to check with your insurer that you are covered, as they may take the view that you would have been aware that volcanic activity was likely to cause travel disruption.”

The trade body for the British insurance industry has issued a guide for travellers who are concerned that they travel plans could be disrupted from the Icelandic eruption.

The Association of British Insurers advice to travellers concerned about possible disruption to their travel plans in the event of a volcanic eruption is as follows –

Contact your airline, travel agent or airport you are due to fly from for the latest information about travel arrangements. If your flight is cancelled airlines should offer you either a full refund of your unused ticket or an alternative flight. EU based airlines are required to offer you accommodation and meals if you are delayed in getting home to the UK.

If your flight is cancelled and you do not travel, and if your travel policy does not cover volcanic ash disruption (see below) insurers may refund your premium if you took out single trip travel insurance. If you arrange an alternative flight at a later date, your travel insurer should be able to change your policy to cover this.

Following the ash cloud disruption in April 2010, it has been possible to buy travel insurance that specifically covers cancellation, delay and curtailment due to ash cloud disruption. If you purchase a travel insurance policy that includes cover for travel disruption, your insurer is likely to pay for reasonable travel and accommodation expenses for which you cannot claim elsewhere if your flight is significantly delayed or cancelled due to a volcanic eruption or other natural disaster. As the scope and level of cover will vary between policies, with some policies providing more basic cover not including volcanic ash disruption, you should  check your policy terms and conditions and if unsure talk to your travel insurer.

Travel insurance is designed to cover you against events which you could not reasonably have foreseen when you took out the policy. If your policy covers volcanic ash disruption and you took out cover before any warnings or volcanic eruption then you will be covered. If your policy was taken out when there were warnings of volcanic activity you should check with your travel insurer.

Aidan Kerr, the ABI’s Head of Travel says: “Travel insurance is designed to work alongside, and not duplicate, any compensation you are entitled to from your airline or tour operator. Travel insurers will respond as quickly as possible to any claims  to ensure that the disruption caused to travellers is minimised.”

Insurer LV= says for those with its premier travel insurance, it will cover any disruption to flights of more than 24 hours paying for customers to cancel their holiday or offering £1,000 towards alternative travel.

For any LV= premier travel insurance customers who are already abroad and can’t get home, LV= will offer cover for the cost of additional travel or accommodation costs up to £1,000.

Selwyn Fernandes, Managing Director of LV= travel insurance, says: “As the summer holidays draw to a close, thousands of families will be returning from holidays and many more will be setting off to enjoy the bank holiday weekend. Any volcanic eruption could cause major delays at airports and leave people stranded.

“When the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in 2010, we were the first insurer to offer to pay out for customers who were delayed or had to cancel their holidays. It is extremely unfair that people should miss out on their holidays because of an event like this and we advise all those planning to travel to check with the airlines before leaving home.”

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