Domestic travel insurance policies do not cover medical – you will be covered by Medicare.
International policies all typically include medical cover as standard.
Travel insurance can also cover you for cancellations, lost luggage, personal liability and more.
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What does travel insurance cover?
Missed flights – these are covered if you are delayed because of an accident enroute, but not if the delay was due to your negligence or missed connections.
Cancelled flights and resultant missed accommodation – these are covered if due to severe weather or airline strikes, but not if caused by the airline, in which case you must seek compensation from them.
Extreme events – natural disasters, hijacking, riots and civil unrest that affect travel arrangements are covered, but only after policy cover has commenced.
Severe sickness or injury – this is covered if a medical practitioner deems you unfit to travel, but not if it relates to a pre-existing medical condition or you fail to cancel your pre-booked trip promptly.
Death of a close relative – this is covered if you need to cancel or curtail your trip, but is subject to age limitations and pre-existing medical conditions.
Theft of passports, travel documents or credit cards – this is covered providing you obtain a police report within 24 hours and the theft did not occur while you were intoxicated.
Loss of Frequent Flyer points – this is covered by some insurers if you used the points to help pay for your trip, which was then cancelled.
Disruption of journey – this is covered if your trip is delayed by more than six hours and pays a benefit amount every 24 hours towards emergency meals and accommodation.
Alternative transport expenses – these are covered if your flight is cancelled on your way to a sporting match, wedding, funeral or other pre-booked event.
Won’t the airline pay for it?
Travel insurance is like any form of insurance; the insurer will only pay when costs are not redeemable from any other source. So, there are instances where you won’t be covered by travel insurance and must seek compensation from the carrier instead. But compensation varies with each carrier and is usually at their discretion.
Delay or cancellation – if due to things such as mechanical problems or timetable changes, your carrier will usually put you on the next available service, reroute you through another carrier or give you a refund or credit for future travel.
Compensation – payments for accommodation, transport, meals and phone calls incurred due to carrier delays and cancellations are purely at the discretion of the carrier.
Fares and reservations – these usually have strict conditions and are often non-refundable, particularly if they are discounted.
Overbooking – if a carrier overbooks a service and you are affected, you may be entitled to compensation. There is an agreed industry rate in Australia, but rates vary in other countries with international carriers.
Baggage – if a carrier loses or damages your baggage, they will usually compensate you, but only if you report it promptly (within 3 days for cabin luggage and 21 days for checked bags).
Seating – carriers are not obliged to guarantee seating and may reseat you, even in a lower class than you booked. Any compensation for this is at the carrier’s discretion.
Death or personal injury – the liability of domestic carriers for the death or personal injury of a passenger is limited to $500,000 and overseas, compensation is governed by international conventions.
As can be seen, the extent of a carrier’s liability depends on the circumstances and any compensation is largely at their discretion, so foregoing travel insurance in the hope of being reimbursed by your carrier for any mishaps would probably not be the wisest move.
Won’t the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement cover me?
Relying on your carrier for insurance is not a great idea and neither is assuming that because you are travelling to a country with a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) with Australia that you don’t need travel insurance with medical and hospital cover.
And that’s because, while RHCA countries will provide Australian travellers with subsidised health care similar to Medicare, they each offer different levels of cover and some medical costs are not covered at all, including:
Medical evacuation to Australia
Treatment and accommodation in a private hospital
Treatment and accommodation as a private patient in a public hospital
Australia has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with 11 countries, so if you are travelling to one of them, be sure to have travel insurance that includes adequate medical and hospital cover.
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Cristal Dyer is a travel writer at Finder. She has been writing about travel for over five years and has visited over 40 countries around the world. Cristal currently travels full-time, writing about her favourite cities and food finds, and she is always on the lookout for amazing flight deals to share.
This article examines what is and isn’t covered by missed flight travel insurance and also takes a look at other types of trip interruption and cancellation cover.
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