What to look for in travel insurance

Saturday January 6 2018

Just as with general insurance, carefully

Just as with general insurance, carefully reading and understanding the fine print of a travel insurance can save you a tonne of grief in claims or emergency medical evacuation. FOTOSEARCH 

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You are probably coming off a bruising holiday, far from the relaxing and rejuvenating days you had planned for.

Unforeseen circumstances, such as lost baggage, accidents or sudden illness are the major causes of travel-related stress and anxiety.

In 2017, SITA one of the world’s leading travel technology solutions provider put the global average bag loss at 5.73 bags per thousand passengers.

These statistics might not be very representative of baggage loss for travel in the region, which is assumed to have much higher figures.

It is however expected that come June, there will be a drastic drop in baggage loss related cases as the aviation industry will have fully implemented IATA Resolution 753 on baggage tracking.

In brief, under this resolution, an airline must track a bag onto the aircraft, into arrivals or into transfers.

Furthermore, this tracking information must be shared with the next airport in the journey.

But this should not be construed to mean the end of baggage loss — on the contrary you can expect that there still will be instances, albeit fewer.

Whatever the efforts to mitigate baggage loss in air travel, you still need to make travel insurance a priority this year.

The value of travel insurance goes beyond covering baggage loss — it extends to illness, death, theft, flight cancellations among other unforeseen circumstances.

In the region, there is a sudden increase in the number of travel insurance providers, possibly tapping into the awakening by travellers for travel indemnity.

Some of these providers are already in marketing partnerships with airlines to push their services to flyers at the ticketing stage.

What travellers must realise is that not everyone offering insurance products will come to your rescue or even compensate you if or when misfortune befalls you during travel.

So how should one shop for travel insurance?

Just as they say, the devil is in the detail. Just as with general insurance, carefully reading and understanding the fine print of a travel insurance can save you a tonne of grief in claims or emergency medical evacuation.

First, medical care is not cheap overseas. Hence, it is vital that you understand the component of the offer in your travel medical cover.

Understand fully the limits of the health cover you are getting and it is recommended that you do not settle for the lowest or cheapest limit.

Second, query exactly what is included in the medical offer; who are the healthcare providers you are eligible to access in the country(ies) of your intended travel?

Is there an emergency evacuation provision? What about repatriation of remains in case of death?

The emergency evacuation provision might possibly be your deciding factor.

Third, it is important that you fully understand what the offer entails as far as travel disruption goes.

Most providers will quickly cover baggage loss — however, find out if trip interruptions like trip cancellations, flight delays or baggage delays are covered.

Fourth, does the offer include a cover for your travel gadgets and electronics? If you are going to travel with valuables like expensive cameras and computers, consider getting these covered even for additional premiums.

Fifth, what exclusion clauses are there? Beyond this, find out the limitations on liability and any ceiling values when it comes to compensation.

This is important particularly on the health cover as most providers will not cover routine medical checks or known pre-existing conditions as part of the travel insurance.

The whole purpose of the cover is unforeseen arising incidents or medical emergencies, so remember to carry your medication for pre-existing conditions.

If you travel frequently, it might be worth your while to consider long term travel insurance as opposed to buying single travel insurance cover by picking an annual multi travel cover.

Travellers with long stay overseas (six to eight weeks) should however stick to the single travel insurance.

Be extra vigilant with regional insurance service providers who purport to offer global travel insurance cover. Most of them have limited reach.

A few offer legitimate travel insurance cover to most countries in the world but you need to be careful and always read the fine print.

May you travel safely, and arrive with all your bags in 2018.

Michael Otieno is an aviation consultant and travel writer based in Nairobi. Twitter: @mosafariz; Email: [email protected]