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Page last updated at 13:45 GMT, Saturday, 17 April 2010 14:45 UK

Travel havoc: what the insurers say

Icelandic volcano
Volcano Eyjafjallajokull causes havoc

A cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland continues to disrupt travel plans as planes have been restricted from flying into UK airspace.

Money Box has contacted a number of the larger insurers to find out how they intend to deal with claims from stranded or disappointed travellers.

HSBC / First Direct / Marks & Spencer Money

"HSBC, M&S Money and first direct have today confirmed that, although claims relating to volcanic eruptions are not usually covered by travel insurance policies, they will, on this particular occasion, allow claims from UK customers affected by the volcanic ash that has recently grounded flights.

"Although airlines will refund or rebook flights, many passengers still face the costs of hotel rooms and car hire. Customers should in the first instance contact their airline or tour operator to see what help and assistance is available from them.

"Today's announcement will ensure that travellers with HSBC, M&S Money or First Direct policies have the reassurance that valid claims for their disrupted travel will be met. UK customers with HSBC Premier and Advance services, M&S Premium Club and firstdirectory members are also covered.

"Paul Thurston, Chief Executive of HSBC Bank plc, said: 'The volcanic ash disruption is an unprecedented event and has left thousands of travellers disappointed.

'Not all insurance policies are the same, but we at HSBC believe that standing behind our customers on this extraordinary occasion is the right thing to do at this time.

'Our commitment to consider claims in this situation will help our customers cope with the costs arising from the disruption of their travel plans.' "


Direct Line & Churchill

"We are covering this event - we don't have a list of natural disasters we do and don't cover. Covering the fact that all UK airports are closed. The fact that it's caused by volcanic ash is almost irrelevant! People must have bought their policy before Thursday 14th April. We ask that people go to the service provider first, and check what the airline will do for you."


Halifax / LloydsTSB

"Given the size and scale of our insurance business we have a number of travel insurance policies designed to meet different customer needs.

"Under our Halifax Travel Insurance policy, customers affected by this event are fully covered for alternative accommodation and other associated costs our customers might incur not covered by the airline or tour operator.

"Although the protection provided under our Lloyds TSB Travel Insurance Policy does not extend to cover such expenses we are of course investigating how we can help and support our customers during this very unusual event. We would advise all customers impacted by air travel disruption to seek a refund from their airline or tour operator in the first instance."


Saga

"We don't have any sneaky clauses designed to enable us to wriggle out of paying - we are pretty straightforward. So all claims must be supported by the required information (so this is evidence of check in, and where flights have been cancelled a letter from the airline).

"We don't use the phrase natural disaster - but our Independent Traveller element of the policy covers unrecoverable unused accommodation costs and charges in the event of fire, flood, earthquake, explosion, tsunami, landslide, avalanche, or storm.

"Although volcanic eruption is not in the list - common sense dictates that it should be covered as we name other perils like earthquake. We are also extending cover for our independent travellers, should they be unable to travel.

"Of course, customers who are booked in a package holiday will be able to claim from their tour operators. Cancelled flights are covered by the airline, accommodation booked as part of a package will be covered by the tour operator.

"Any unused accommodation that doesn't fall into these categories will be considered on an individual basis (but we need a letter from the airline as evidence of cancellation)."


Post Office

"Post Office Travel Insurance is not turning down valid claims as a result of the volcanic ash incident for customers who purchased their policy prior to 15 April. We have classified the issue as "Bad Weather" due to its impact on atmospheric conditions and therefore we are considering claims for Delayed Departure and Abandonment.

"Cover is provided by Post Office Travel Insurance if a customer's flight is delayed for more than 8 hours as a result of the volcanic ash. Customers are entitled to a payment of £20 for the first 8 hours of the delay, plus a subsequent payment of £20 for each additional 12 hour delay up to a maximum of £300.

"As long as the customer has contacted the airline and can provide evidence that they were not requested to check in - this will be sufficient to support the claim.

"Cover is also provided for customers who decide to abandon their trips before they leave the UK after a delay of more than 12 hours, or if the airline confirms in writing that the flight is cancelled or delayed by more than 12 hours from its original departure time. This cover includes the cost of the flights and any associated accommodation expenses up to a maximum of £5000. No cover exists for costs which customers are able to reclaim from their airline or other source."


Greenbee

"We are extremely sympathetic to anyone who is being affected by the current travel disruptions following the Icelandic volcano eruption.

"We will endeavour to help all Greenbee Travel Insurance customers as much as possible, however we can only look at specific circumstances on a case by case basis.

"We are working hard to support our customers in these challenging times. Greenbee can assist by offering support with travel related difficulties via our concierge service which can help organise alternative travel arrangements. We will also reimburse, on a case by case basis, extra travel costs incurred by customers if they cannot recoup these from their tour operator, hotel company or airline. These customers are being advised to contact our claims department who will manage ex gratia payments on an individual basis.

"In the meantime we will extend the insurance period for Greenbee single trip policy holders currently overseas until they can return to the UK (subject to certain criteria) at no additional cost, so that they are covered for medical or baggage costs until they can get home. Customers with Greenbee single trip cover who wish to change the dates, duration or destination of their affected planned trip on their policy will be able to do so."


Virgin Money

"No cover is available, as this is a natural disaster."



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