Few travel policies ‘provide complete Covid-19 cover’

Out of 263 travel insurance policies, just two were rated as offering complete Covid-19 cover.

Few travel policies ‘provide complete Covid-19 cover’ iStock

Fewer than one in 100 travel insurance policies provide “complete” cover for coronavirus-related disruption, according to Which?

Out of 263 travel insurance policies, the consumer group rated just two as offering complete Covid-19 cover.

The policies are HSBC UK select and cover and Barclays travel pack.

They protect travellers against cancellation due to changes in advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) or Government lockdowns prohibiting travel; testing positive for Covid-19 or being told to self-isolate; and medical costs and repatriation.

Both policies are available to customers of these banks and can only be bought alongside other insurance products, Which? said.

The consumer group said buying good quality insurance has never been more important as disruption to international travel continues.

It added that while some travel insurers boast of offering impressive-sounding “Covid cover”, many policies exclude plausible – and often expensive – scenarios, such as new lockdowns in the UK or destination country.

Which? also rated 85 policies it looked at as superior, providing cancellation cover for travellers having to self-isolate without a positive test, but not for FCDO advice changing. Superior-rated policies included those from providers AA, Axa and Staysure.

Just over half of the policies were ranked low and offer some cancellation cover – but do not cover travellers cancelling in the event of needing to self-isolate without having a positive coronavirus test result.

And 34 policies were ranked as basic – the lowest ranking.

Basic policies provide travellers with cover for coronavirus-related emergency medical costs and repatriation.

Every policy analysed offered cover for medical and repatriation costs for travellers catching Covid-19 while travelling.

Which? research also calculated the percentage of policies that would cover travellers for different kinds of specific Covid-19 related disruption – whether before travelling or while away.

Only a third offer cover if travellers cancelled because they were told to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app.

Less than a fifth of policies cover passengers returning early if advice from the FCDO changed while they were abroad.

One in ten policies cover hotel closures before departure and one in five offered cover if a hotel closes while travellers are on holiday.

Only five per cent offer cancellation cover in the event of a lockdown in the UK, either local or national, that prohibits travellers from leaving the country.

Just four per cent of policies cover cancellations if travellers are forced to quarantine at their destination, and only three per cent offer protection if travellers do not travel because they would have to quarantine upon their return to the UK.

This could be a consequence of a country moving from one list to another on the UK Government’s red/amber/green list.

Which? said travel and insurance providers should be giving travellers clear information about their policies.

Gareth Shaw, head of Which? Money, said: “As the removal of Portugal from the green list shows, last-minute disruption to holiday plans can happen – and our research shows that many travel insurers don’t offer much protection if it does.

“The Government should work with regulators to ensure that travellers, should they choose to go abroad, are given clear information about what they will and won’t be covered for – and make sure that providers don’t make bold and confusing claims about their cover without being clear about the limitations.”

A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers said: “Despite overseas travel restrictions continuing, it is important for travellers to take out travel insurance when booking their holiday, primarily to cover potentially very expensive overseas emergency medical treatment bills, including any Covid-related treatment, which can easily run into tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“We urge people to read their policy to understand the scope of cover, as policies bought after the pandemic was declared are unlikely to cover cancellation due to Covid as it is a known risk, and travel insurance is designed and priced to cover unforeseen events.

“Travellers should always be aware of and follow government advice, and the border requirements of the country they are visiting. And always follow FCDO advice, to avoid invalidating your travel insurance.”

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