Fewer than one in 100 travel insurance policies provide ‘complete’ cover for Covid-19 disruption, Which? analysis of more than 250 policies has revealed.
While some travel insurers boast of offering impressive-sounding ‘Covid-19 cover’, the consumer rights body found that this means different things for different providers.
Which? found that many policies exclude plausibly – and often expensive – scenarios, such as new lockdowns in the UK or destination country.
The organization looked at 263 travel insurance policies’ Covid-19 cover and gave them ratings ranging from ‘basic,’ to ‘low,’ ‘superior’ and ‘complete’.
Just two policies, HSBC Select and Cover and Barclays Travel Pack were rated as ‘complete’, which meant that they protected travelers against:
- Cancellation due to changes in advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or government lockdowns prohibiting travel.
- Testing positive for Covid or being told to self-isolate.
- Medical costs and repatriation.
Both of these policies are available to customers of these banks and can only be bought alongside other insurance products.
A further 85 policies were ranked ‘superior’, providing cancellation cover for travelers having to self-isolate without a positive test, but not for FCDO advice changing.
Policies with ‘superior’ Covid-19 cover included those from popular providers such as AA, AXA, and Staysure.
Just over half of the policies (142) were ranked ‘low’, including policies from Nationwide, Admiral, and the Post Office.
This means that they offer some cancellation cover – but that does not go as far as covering travelers for canceling in the event of needing to self-isolate without having a positive Covid-19 test result.
There were 34 policies ranked ‘basic’, the lowest ranking.
Such policies provide travelers with cover for Covid-19-related emergency medical costs and repatriation, but not for canceling a trip if a traveler contracts Covid-19.
Among well-known providers offering some ‘basic’ policies were Direct Travel, ensure and Sheilas’ Wheels.
Every policy analyzed offered cover for medical and repatriation costs for travelers that had caught Covid-19 while traveling.
Which? is calling for the government to work with regulators, such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), to make every effort to ensure all travelers adequately understand their travel insurance cover and can access cover that protects them against sudden changes to travel restrictions when they would otherwise struggle to get their money back.
It should also be giving as much notice as possible if rules change.
Travel and insurance providers should be giving travelers clear information about their policies, including those relevant to canceled flights, changes in travel advice and refunds, and highlighting the policies’ limitations.
The FCA should monitor how well insurers are presenting this information.
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 travelers, 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.”