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Travel insurance complaints up 19% – do this to avoid being let down | Personal Finance | Finance

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Martin Lewis says get travel insurance as soon as you book

Travel insurance complaints jumped by nearly a fifth last year after holidaymakers found claims for theft, loss, illness and delays were rejected.

The figures come from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) which recorded 4,466 complaints in 2023/24.

This was the highest level in the past decade other than during 2020-21 when covid, lockdowns and travel bans disrupted foreign trips.

FOS said the cases were primarily driven by complaints related to insurers turning down claims.

The financial watchdog is also seeing rising trends related to policyholders being told:

* Medical conditions had not been properly disclosed

* People let down with the levels of emergency assistance after falling ill abroad

* Complaints about delayed or missed flights

* Lost and stolen luggage

Abby Thomas, chief executive and chief ombudsman at FOS, said: “With the holidays upon us, and millions of families heading overseas on their summer breaks, it’s crucial that people taking out travel insurance know what they are signing up to.

“It’s concerning to see so many people dissatisfied with their insurance provider. That’s why it’s so important firms take the time to explain terms, treat people fairly, and ensure everyone understands their policy.

“If people aren’t happy with how they have been treated they should contact our free, independent service and we’ll investigate.”

Sad Traveler sitting in an airport

The cases were mainly as a result of insurers turning down claims (Image: Getty)

A spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said: “Insurers always want to provide the best possible service for their customers.

“When complaints are made, they will look to learn from them, including working closely with the FOS to understand any necessary improvements.

“It’s vital that customers understand what they’re covered for and they make sure they have the right policy to meet their needs.

“Travel insurance is primarily designed to cover the cost of any emergency medical treatment needed overseas, so it’s important insurers fully understand the details of any pre-existing conditions.

“Not disclosing, or only partially disclosing, pre-existing medical conditions risks invalidating a claim, so customers should answer all medical questions accurately and honestly.

“Insurers recognise the importance of clear communication and our members are always working on improving the way they set out policy information so that it is as clear and accessible as possible.”


FOS offers advice on how to choose the right insurance and avoid being let down.

1. Read the small print.

Checking the policy terms and conditions carefully is important, including what medical history you need to tell your insurer about and what activities are covered under the policy.

2. Understand what is not covered.

Most travel insurance policies specify the events which are insured under the policy and the general exclusions which apply to the policy. Even if there is no specific exclusion it does not automatically mean you are covered.


3. Do not confuse travel insurance with private medical insurance.

Travel insurance is not the same as private medical insurance. Most policies require you to seek treatment in a public hospital. The insurer may not pay for private treatment unless it is required, for example if there are no suitable public hospitals locally.


4. You may need to tell your travel insurer about medical conditions, even if you have fully recovered.

Check what your insurer needs to know about pre-existing medical conditions, otherwise, you may not be covered.


5. Your travel insurer may not agree to fly you back to the UK if you become unwell abroad.

The insurer will determine whether it is a medical necessity to fly you home. The provider may ask you to get treatment abroad and wait until you are well enough to return.

Annoyed mature couple is waiting for the subway

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) recorded 4,466 complaints in 2023/24 (Image: Getty)

6. Travel insurance may not cover missed flights caused by security delays, airport evacuations and/or problems with visas and passports.

Policies may only cover flights missed because of a specific list of insured events, such as failure of or delays to public transport, accident or breakdown of the vehicle the policy holder is travelling in, accident or breakdown of another vehicle on the motorway, strike, industrial action or adverse weather conditions.


7. If your circumstances change and you can no longer go on holiday, you may not necessarily be covered.

If you change your mind about travelling, your insurance may not cover you. Cover will generally only be provided if a cancellation is caused by a specific insured event, and the insurer is generally entitled to require reasonable supporting evidence.


8. Need-to-knows around lost luggage.

Travel insurers will generally require a policyholder to obtain a property irregularity report from their airline while still at the airport and provide proof from their airline that the luggage cannot be located before considering a claim.

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