Volcanoes, strikes, airlines going bust and pre-existing medical conditions – the joys of choosing the right travel insurance policy

2 min Read Published: 20 Jul 2010

Well the holiday is booked but now for the travel insurance headache.

Needless to say that I followed my own Checklist for finding the best travel insurance post and whittled down my options fairly quickly – I had a very particular and challenging set of circumstances:

  • Multiple people travelling
  • A pre-existing medical condition
  • More than one trip
  • Both being non-packaged holidays
  • Travelling at least once with BA – who love a good strike
  • And also travelling with Bob & Dave’s two-bit airline
  • Then I happened to stumble upon this story……….. Holidaymakers hoping for a trouble-free trip may yet find their travels disrupted by further Icelandic volcano activity this summer, according to volcanologists. While the story states the obvious it brings up the interesting question of who covers volcanic ash in their travel insurance policy?

    Regular readers will recall that Aviva launched a new volcano travel insurance sometime ago. For me Aviva were very expensive and the add-on is not particularly cheap. However, Which? recently did a bit of research and came up with the following advice:

    Not all insurers cover you for Volcanic ash-cloud disruption. Check your policy carefully to see whether it covers natural disasters such as erupting volcanoes. Some companies - including Columbus Direct, Direct Line, Fortis and Leisurecare - have said they are treating the ash cloud as a 'bad weather' event and customers are entitled to claim. Direct Travel is also treating the ash disruption as a weather-related incident and will continue to provide cover to new customers. Check your policy on how to make a claim as this varies between providers.

    So I decided to have a look at one of these policies, namely Columbus Direct to check if what they say is true, and sure enough it is – up to a point at least. Columbus will cover you for delays and abandonment on the outbound part of your holiday as a result of that pesky volcano. Obviously on the way home you can’t claim for abandoning your holiday given that you’ve already enjoyed it, but they will give you some compensation for a delayed flight. What they won’t compensate you for is the cost of an overnight hotel stay or any emergency travel back home. For this there is a separate Emergency travel upgrade – which will cost you around £20 extra on an annual European travel policy for a family of 3.

    So what this exercise does highlight is the importance of the last two points in the aforementioned checklist for finding the best travel insurance policy, which are:

    • Ask stupid questions
    • Read the small print and note down any exclusions

    Interestingly, Columbus Direct also include Scheduled Airline Failure (SAF) as standard as part of their policies which protects you if the airline you are travelling with goes bust (and was not booked as part of a packaged deal). But once again, while they claimed it also covered you for accommodation costs, when I spoke to them, the policy document is far from clear on this??

    In the end the travel insurance policy I settled for was not the cheapest out there but it offers me the cover I need – including a safeguard against that stupid volcano. So make sure you dedicate a bit of time to buying your travel insurance as it could make or break you holiday.