Does travel insurance cover my flights? What you need to know about cancellation cover and your airline tickets.
If you’re heading away on an overseas holiday, chances are that your international airfares constitute one of the biggest expenses for the trip. Because flights don’t come cheap, any mishaps or unexpected incidents can end up costing you quite a lot of money — unless you have travel insurance cover in place.
While comprehensive travel insurance offers protection against a number of risks, including everything from overseas medical expenses to stolen passports, it also includes cover when things go awry with your flight bookings. There are two main sections of your travel insurance policy that deal with flights and airfare expenses: cancellation fees and lost deposits, and travel delay/alternative expenses.
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Am I covered for cancellation fees and lost deposits?
Unfortunately, unexpected events and circumstances beyond your control can wreak havoc with your travel plans both before and during your journey. For example, you may have booked flights to Nepal three months in advance but just one week before your scheduled departure, an earthquake strikes Kathmandu and you are forced to cancel your trip.
Other circumstances that may require you to cancel or cut short your trip include illness or injury to you or a relative, you or your travelling companion being involved in an accident before you go, you receiving a jury duty summons or even your employer cancelling your leave. When such situations arise, travel insurance can cover the cost of any cancellation fees you are charged and non-refundable deposits on your pre-booked accommodation and transport, including flights.
Does my policy cover travel delay and alternative expenses?
This travel insurance benefit provides cover when you miss your flight, helping you meet the cost of additional accommodation and travel expenses — but only in certain circumstances. For example, if you’re involved in a car accident on the way to the airport and are unable to make your flight, your insurer will be able to offer financial protection. Cover is also provided for accommodation and travel expenses when your flights are disrupted by bad weather, industrial action, natural disaster, hijacking and if you are deemed medically unfit to travel.
When aren’t I covered for cancellations or missed flights?
Instead of assuming that travel insurance will cover your cancelled or missed flights in any circumstances, keep in mind that the following exclusions apply on most policies. Your claim will usually not be paid if:
- Your flight is cancelled due to mechanical problems with the aircraft, the need for repairs to the aircraft or due to overbooking. In these situations it is the airline’s responsibility to see that you are reimbursed or that you can be put on an alternative flight.
- You’re late for a flight due to your own negligence, such as if you mis-read your departure time or if you didn’t leave enough time to make it to the airport.
- Your claim relates to the cost of pre-booked accommodation when your flight is delayed or cancelled due to a reason not covered by travel insurance.
- You or your travelling companion decided to travel against the advice of a medical practitioner.
- You booked connecting flights that were too close together and didn’t allow enough time for you to make it from one aircraft to the next.
- You missed your flight due to errors or omissions in your booking arrangements, or because you failed to obtain the appropriate visa.
- You could not make a flight due to issues with your passport, for example if it had expired and you forgot to renew it.
- You are caught in a traffic jam on the way to the airport. However, if your public transport breaks down on the way to the airport, many insurers will offer you cover.
- Your airline offers you financial compensation or a seat on an alternative flight and you refuse to accept them.
- If you miss a flight due to an insured event and then book another ticket in a higher class, your insurer will most likely only cover the cost of the original ticket you booked.
Can I get travel insurance to cover just my flights?
If you've booked your airline ticket in advance and you're unable to get a refund for your financial losses, travel insurance may be able to cover the full amount or the gap between a partial refund and the full fare.
Travel insurance cancellation cover is there for those unexpected events that cause you to cancel your trip including:
- Death of a relative
- Injury to travel companion
- Natural disaster
- Jury duty
Policies offering basic cancellation cover
What will my airline cover me for?
Although policies differ between airlines, your carrier will usually provide you with cover for missed and cancelled flights in the following circumstances:
- If your flight is overbooked and you are reallocated to another one
- If the airline loses or damages your baggage on an international flight
- If you miss your flight due to a mechanical issue with the plane
- If the airline is responsible for your death or personal injury
- If your flight is delayed or cancelled because the aircraft is undergoing maintenance or because of a lack of crew members
However, you will most likely not be covered in the following situations:
- If the delay or cancellation is caused by bad weather or a natural disaster
- If your claim results due to war, terrorism or industrial dispute
- If you ditch your flight plans entirely and decide to use an alternative method of transport
- If you suffer from a pre-existing condition and you fall ill during your flight
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that you may have different rights for compensation or reimbursement when you are travelling on a discount fare instead of a full fare, so check the fine print on your booking for more details.