No travel insurer is providing complete cover for Covid-19

No travel insurer is providing ‘complete’ cover for COVID-19 and related disruption for customers looking to travel abroad, new research has claimed.

As the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out gets under way in the UK, and the likelihood of international travel returning next year rises, consumer champion Which? analysed policies offered by 73 travel insurers, examining whether a customer would be covered in four different scenarios. It found that the industry is charging customers more despite protections that were in place before the pandemic disappearing.

Situations which are not covered by policies include if you get Covid-19 abroad and require treatment; if you contract it ahead of your trip and have to cancel; if you’re exposed to the virus or have shown symptoms – but don’t have a positive test or diagnosis- and are self-isolating and have to cancel; or if wider disruption resulting from the pandemic – such as changes in official rules and advice – forces you to abandon travel.

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The results show the scale of the changes that have taken place in the insurance market this year, as Which? was unable to find a single policy in its study that will cover Covid-19 as fully as insurance available before March 2020.

All 73 providers cover emergency medical claims and costs for emergency medical repatriation should you become ill with COVID-19 on holiday. However, 17 insurers offer nothing beyond this, meaning they are classed by Which? as having a ‘basic’ cover rating.

Offering cancellation cover, needed in a scenario such as having to cancel as a result of testing positive for COVID-19 ahead of travelling, in addition to medical cover, qualifies insurers for Which?’s ‘low’ COVID-cover rating. Nearly 60 per cent of insurers – 43 providers - included in the analysis, fall into this category.

Not one insurer was judged by Which? to offer ‘complete’ cover. This would require customers to be able to claim in the event of cancellation caused by Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCDO) advice changes as well as government lockdowns - arguably the most likely way the virus could affect travellers’ plans.

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Five providers – the AA, AXA, Halifax, Puffin and TUI - told Which? their customers can make cancellation claims if they can’t travel because of a localised or national lockdown – providing they can’t recoup lost costs from other sources. However, as they still don’t cover changes to FCDO advice, no provider meets its standard for ‘complete’ cover in full, meaning that insurance alone does not offer genuinely comprehensive cover while COVID-19 remains a threat.

Jenny Ross, Which? Money editor, said: “Coronavirus has had a seismic impact on the travel insurance market and our research shows that consumers are facing the double whammy of significantly reduced cover and increased prices.

“While it’s still unclear how soon holidaymakers will return to the types of trips that took place before the pandemic, it’s vital that when they do comprehensive cover is available at a decent price if things go wrong.”

She added: “If not, the travel industry will not be able to rebuild confidence that it lost at the start of the pandemic. The FCA should act now rather than later to ensure that consumers will be protected on future trips, and that insurers are treating customers fairly.”

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