News: flight insurance rip-off; car hire headache

The best deals, the latest hot-spots and what's new in travel

Flight insurance rip-off

Flight insurance rip-off

Some travel agents are making profits of up to 400 per cent on the insurance designed to protect customers against airline collapses. The Independent has discovered that some agents are charging £5 for Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI), which costs them as little as £1.

Travellers who buy flight tickets can be at risk if the airline they book with goes bust. Travel agents selling scheduled air tickets usually either give a binding undertaking that the company has made arrangements to protect passengers' money in the event of scheduled airline failure (Trailfinders, the UK's largest independent travel company, makes this assurance) or they provide, at the passenger's expense, scheduled airline failure insurance (SAFI). A "nominal" charge is made for the premium for this protection.

With many airlines in dire financial straits, and Government action to address the issue some way off, the need for SAFI is clear. But some companies appear to be overcharging for it. Jeffrey Klipp of Marcus Hearn, a major provider of SAFI to the UK travel industry, said that his company stipulates that the agency or tour operator must not charge more than double the cost. He said that even after adding in Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) he would not expect to see his clients charging customers much more than £2 for SAFI. But many of the leading travel companies who use the SAFI option charge a minimum of £5 per person for it.

A spokesman for Travelbag, part of the e-bookers group, said: "Our clients are protected through a corporate insurance policy. The £5 fee is not profit for Travelbag but goes into a pot to cover Travelbag's administration expenses in the case of having to cancel, re-book or refund in the case of scheduled airline failure."

* Bizarrely, most SAFI schemes will not cover travel with the airlines that are likeliest to go bust. Many policies exclude airlines that are, at the time of booking, in (or have requested) a form of "creditor protection" such as the US scheme, chapter 11. United, the world's second-largest airline, is currently in chapter 11.

If you are booking a ticket on such an airline, the agency you are booking with may have constructed an alternative failure protection scheme; failing that, the agent should make it clear to you that you are not financially protected against that airline going bust.

Car hire headache

Next month, eight nations in Eastern Europe will join the EU. But travellers aiming for the Eastern bloc will still find it difficult, expensive or, in some cases, impossible to find a suitable hire car.

As the rules stand, rented vehicles generally cannot be driven from western Europe into the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Rental companies cite "business reasons" or "fleet control purposes" - code for concerns over vehicle theft.

Cars rented in Germany, Austria and Italy are allowed to be taken across the former Iron Curtain only if they are not "luxury" vehicles such as Mercedes.

The obvious starting place for a road trip to Eastern Europe is Austria, easily reached from Britain on a range of cheap flights. Crossing the eastern frontiers is permitted, but an extra charge is levied. When driving from Vienna to the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia, Hertz adds 50 per cent to its Collision Damage Waiver and Theft Protection fees. Avis charges €14-17 (£10-12) per day, while Europcar levies a one-off charge of €35 (£25).

While the car rental world maintains a level of regulation that the EC would be proud of, freedom of movement within an expanding Europe does not seem high on its agenda.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice