Why travel insurance feels like a scam during the Coronavirus crisis

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I just need to rant a little. I know when it comes to the Coronavirus, there are bigger issues than my (or your) holiday, but there’s a lot of money on the line that I might lose.

What’s annoying is that I am doing everything I can to try and insure myself properly during this crisis and I can’t. I just can’t.

HOWEVER – This is not telling me that you shouldn’t bother getting insured by the way – it’s the opposite. Get travel insurance ASAP.

I’m just frustrated that for weeks I’ve tried to properly cover my trip, but it feels impossible during these uncertain times.

Is my holiday covered for Coronavirus?

So I’m going to Texas, fingers crossed, in May. Booked flights and a fancy hotel in early February (if you’ve been, come find me and tell me what to do and eat please!).

News about Coronavirus started ramping up then, but I have to use my holiday by the end of May – so had to get cracking.

I’ve actually held off booking anything else as because I’m not doing a package holiday, I’m not ATOL protected.

It makes sense to me that if it’s cancelled, I’d rather try and claim back a £1000, rather than £3000+. I’ll just get all the hotels and car hire a week or so before leaving.

I thought you know what, I’ve paid on a credit card, so will get that brilliant Section 75 protection, but also have annual holiday insurance. We’ll be covered. No biggie.

I promise you, I’m smart!

Believe it or not, this stuff is my bread and butter. As much as I do spend most of my time asking stupid questions on Twitter, I have a senior role as a finance editor. I know what I’m talking about.

I keep thinking about certain scenarios that could happen, and if my insurance would cover it. The more you understand of this world, the more you can get stressed.

I keep talking to normal people (who don’t spend their days like me thinking about money) who are going on holiday soon. I ask them if they are covered and get a ‘yeah, got some insurance’ – but I want to say… but… the right kind? Is it going to do the job?

OK – this trip and Coronavirus. Now, I know I need to check my policy to see if I’m covered for viruses, as you can’t just assume that you are.

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And as specific insurance policies can be, they don’t have a list of absolutely everything that could ever happen – which gives insurance companies a bit of wiggle room if they all of a sudden find thousands of people wanting to claim. You know what I mean?

I called up my insurer to get clarification

Anway, I couldn’t really see anything specifically in my policy about the FCO saying I shouldn’t travel somewhere (it did say I was covered if I got ill). It was all very confusing. So decided to call up and ask.

I’m clearly not the only one doing this as it took forever to get through to a frantic salesman, who didn’t really have the answers. The truth is that a lot of underwriters are waiting to see what others are doing, so company representatives are just as much in the dark as the customers are now.

I recorded the conversation, purely because I knew it was going to be confusing and I wanted to make sure I could listen back.

The guy on the phone said that basically we are not covered unless we pay extra for the Travel Disruption add-on, which costs about £100 more for us.

And I’m quite naturally distrustful of insurance companies anyway, as I’ve been burned before. I wasn’t sure if this was some rubbish add-on insurance companies are flogging when people start panicking, or if I genuinely really needed it.

The truth is the insurers don’t know what to do about Coronavirus

The poor guy on the phone said that even then, this cover, as it stands only is valid up until the end of next month as the underwriters are still deciding on how they are dealing with Coronavirus. It could all change.

Because I’m literally covering this at work, I’ve been contacting press officers asking questions, and the day after I nearly bought the Travel Disruption, Axa (and the companies it underwrites for), changed it so that it would cover Coronavirus disruptions up until the 30th April 2020.

This is great for those with that cover, but I nearly wasted a load of money.

It still leaves a load of questions though. What if you do have a holiday booked after May? Is it a waste of time to upgrade? Are you covered?

Then Flybe went under

AND THEN, Flybe went under. It was in trouble anyway, and the Coronavirus was the final nail in the coffin.

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I was SURE we were covered. Of course your insurance company would cover you if there was literally no airline anymore, right? Plus, we had free super special Travel Disruption cover. WRONG.

Checked my policy, and no. Even with the Travel Disruption add-on, if the airline goes under, we wouldn’t be covered.

This is absolute madness. Here’s why:

  • I have money
  • I want to cover my holiday, all of it
  • I want to spend the money I have covering it
  • I am bright and understand finance better than a lot of people

Yet I can’t. It’s too hard.

I’m pretty sure I’m covered if the FCO says we can’t travel to America. I know I’m not covered if Norweigan Air goes under and I also am pretty sure I’m not covered if I’m stuck out there for a long time.

If the airline goes under, I know because I paid on my credit card, my credit card company will probably give me the money back. I have no idea what I’ll do if I’m stuck in America for a month, and can’t afford to stay in the hotel under a quarantine.

The problem isn’t just Coronavirus related

I know ‘experts’ tell you to read your insurance policies, but honestly, expecting you to read a literal contact, that’s pages long, and not in plain English is a little unreasonable.

Not going to name names, but I know someone who was quite high up in the insurance world and they admitted they find policies too hard to understand. Well, if they can’t work them out, how is a normal person expected to!

And what it means is that ordinary people potentially lose out on thousands of pounds. It means that if they are stuck abroad, ill – they won’t get that lifesaving treatment. When it comes to travel insurance, it’s literally a matter of life and death.

It’s not OK to treat customers like this. The whole industry needs to do better. It’s not too much to ask to be able to understand what you’re paying for.

So, I’m mad and frustrated that it’s too hard. And if it’s too hard for me, it’s going to be too hard for others. It feels like a scam because there’s no winning.


Are you off on holiday over the next few months? Reckon you’ve got your trip properly insured to cover the Coronavirus? Let me know!

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