Passport, sun cream, swimsuit...insurance: With more of us chasing the sun, the risk of suffering a holiday upset is far higher
Saturday 14 June 2014
If the experts are right, more of us are likely to go abroad on holiday this year – encouraged by a possible upturn in the economy and hoping to find some good weather overseas. But the 25 million of us that are likely to leave these shores this summer, according to estimates from the travel association Abta, will find a world that is changing fast.
Thousands of us have rapidly become used to claiming against airlines over delays of three hours or more, for instance. An EU court ruling in October 2012 opened the door to such claims. The statistics show that we have not been slow on the uptake. While the original request for compensation over the delay must be made to the airline involved, passengers whose flight was cancelled or delayed can go on to appeal to the Civil Aviation Authority's complaints service if they wish.
The CAA finds in favour of passengers in about a third of cases. The number of complaints to the CAA went up six-fold from 2012, when the authority handled just over 4,000 cases on a range of issues, to nearly 23,800 in 2013 after the delay issue was added on. Since the compensation level starts at about £210 per person on delays, the pursuit of a claim can be worthwhile – even though the rules are precise and more restrictive than the flying public might like.
This development is one of many affecting the whole area of travel insurance and the resolution of problems while abroad. A negative development is an "increase in customers not really being very careful", according to David Vincent, head of travel underwriting at Axa, the UK's largest travel insurer.
He is talking about the kind of incident where someone leaves a laptop unguarded on a train and then finds it stolen or, far worse, goes out on a scooter without a helmet and then has an accident. One of the worst examples – people diving into the shallow end of a pool – seemed to have disappeared until last year when Axa saw a few cases again (see panel, right).
A purely financial trend that travellers should watch out for is the growth in excesses on their travel insurance policies. There are some 400 products in the market, according to research specialist Defaqto Matrix. In the past four years, excesses have increased so that, for example, only 6 per cent of single-trip policies now have baggage excesses under £50, compared with 11 per cent in 2010. And 29 per cent have baggage excesses of £100 or more, compared with 13 per cent four years ago.
It is also common for insurers to charge a different excess for each part of a policy, so that a man who loses a passport, gets mugged and has his camera stolen might have to claim more than the value of three separate excesses, not one, before his insurer pays out.
But in cases where baggage that was put in the hold of an aircraft is lost, there is an alternative way to claim. "It's definitely better to claim against the airline," says Daniel Scognamiglio, head of the travel team in the Southampton office of law firm Blake Lapthorn. This is because there is no excess on these airline claims, which are made under the Montreal Convention. The maximum amount of claim per person is set at about £1,100. Passengers should report the loss to the airport or airline, obtaining a copy of a report that the airline or airport will make, called a "property irregularity report". Mr Scognamiglio says the system tends to work quite quickly and smoothly with most airlines.
Making claims in relation to illness continues to be fraught. The Financial Ombudsman Service, which experienced a fall in travel claims of 17 per cent between 2012/13 and 2013/14, says misunderstandings and other problems on medical claims are common. It told The Independent: "We continue to see a high number of cases where consumers have failed to disclose a pre-existing medical condition. In some instances, this duty has been extended to include medical conditions of relatives if this could lead to the cancellation of the trip, even if they are not going on the holiday."
Alcohol and drugs remain a vexed area. The Ombudsman says: "We continue to see a number of complaints where alcohol has been a factor. Many insurance policies will exclude claims for injuries if they are sustained while 'under the influence'.
"In many cases we see, insurers had clearly assumed immediately that certain injuries must have been sustained because the consumer had been drinking, but this might not always be the case."
If there is a question about whether an individual with a travel insurance policy has drunk too much, the insurer is likely to request a toxicology report from a local hospital. But many hospitals refuse to carry out these tests, unless required to by law. This is usually because they know that a positive result is likely to lead to the insurer stopping funding any medical care that is being given.
Another trend that is likely to make itself felt this year is a clampdown by insurers on fraud. Insurers are asking more questions about the kind of case where a claim comes in for a pair of expensive Ray-Ban sunglasses but there is little proof that the policyholder ever bought them. The insurance industry has had notable successes in tackling fraud in the area of staged car crashes and it would be no surprise if it persuades the police to become involved in investigating some of the larger travel frauds. The City of London Police has a specialist Insurance Fraud Department, which also investigates travel cover.
Axa detected a "gradual increase in people travelling again" last spring, with signs that the US, Caribbean, Thailand and Australia are drawing a regular flow of older travellers. Abta expects a slight increase in numbers in 2014, probably meaning that more people will travel abroad and that some of them will travel farther afield.
Even greater care has to be taken on visits to farther-flung places. The EU provides a legal framework that helps travellers make legal claims – and it also operates the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) that also covers Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. It can be easy to forget, however, that a trip to Turkey takes you outside the EU. Similarly, the EU rules make it easier for claimants to make claims if they buy their flight and accommodation in one package – so people who arrange travel and board separately need to be all the more careful that they have a decent travel policy rather than the cheapest one. When annual policies often cost just £50, paying £10 extra can be a good investment.
The travel insurance sector is well known for its low premiums. But on the down side, the fine print can be restrictive. And 2014 could be the year in which premiums start to go up again. Steve Manton of Manton Associates, a consultant to the travel insurance sector, says: "As the economy improves, long haul is going to become bigger again and that will push claims up. Claims are more expensive when the distances are longer."
Thinking about similar issues, Vincent of Axa says the size of medical claims is rising. "If claims continue to go up, we need to charge more to cover the cost of them," he says. "So if costs go up, we'll have to look at the terms and conditions or at our rating."
High price for hijinks: paralysed in pool
Lawyer Daniel Scognamiglio warns of the dangers – mainly to young men – of mixing alcohol and swimming pools.
In a recent case he handled, a youth was on holiday with friends and had taken a drink before diving into a pool. He says there were signs saying the pool was shallow, and it was also clear there were tables and seats built into it.
Mr Scognamiglio says: "He simply dived in and hit his head either on the bottom or on the tables. He was, sadly, left paraplegic as a result." He paid dearly for what the lawyer describes as a "moment of frivolity".
Mr Scognamiglio says: "It's very difficult in English law to recover damages from a tour operator or a hotel when you've suffered an injury like that. It's also difficult for travel insurance policyholders as you could be seen as having wilfully exposed yourself to harm."
Health and safety rules designed to prevent people from drowning have encouraged pool providers to opt for wading rather than swimming or diving pools in the past decade, according to leading manufacturer Aqua Platinum. Cases have been brought against providers under the manslaughter laws.
The 'no-hang up' scam targets vulnerable people - and your bank may not protect you
Under new state pension rules we will all be much worse off
Budget 2015: George Osborne is set to get tough with further cuts in public spending
Energy giants overcharge us by almost £2bn as 70% of customers are on the wrong tariff, warns CMA
If a bank calls about transferring money because of fraud, you risk losing your life savings
- 1 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 2 Nick Kyrgios calls former Olympian Dawn Fraser a 'blatant racist' after she tells Wimbledon star to 'go back where their parents came from'
- 3 World learns of app that shows you who unfriended you on Facebook, app promptly crashes
- 4 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
- 5 The Greece debt crisis explained in less than 100 words
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sales?Do you have a keen interes...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...
Day In a Page
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.
This recently-refurbished three-bedroom home has bi-folding doors that lead out to a decked seating area - ideal for alfresco dining this summer.
Well-located for coastal walks and popular restaurants, this detached four-bedroom home offers views over farmland, to the Solent, the Purbecks and Bournemouth.
If you love high ceilings, school conversions like this one are bang on the money. This two-bedroom flat is minutes from Burgess Park and the foodie haven at Borough Market.
Set within a church conversion in Bermondsey, this two-bedroom maisonette combines existing features, such as original arches and brickwork, with a contemporary finish.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.