01.Getting out of limbo
If you have been affected by the Qantas strikes and grounding and have access to the internet, your insurer should have information available on its website, or just give them a call on the hot line number. Common entitlements include:
- Reasonable additional food, accommodation and travel expenses.
- Cover for cancellation or the rearrangement of your journey or the unused portions of your journey (it may help to contact your travel agent or travel provider about the best approach and how to avoid penalties from the travel provider).
If you are stranded:
- Minimise your expenses. Re-arrangements should stay within the general daily budget of your originally scheduled journey.
- Submit your travel insurance claim as soon as possible or practicable with all supporting documentation, including receipts for any additional transport, food or accommodation expenses, receipts for your original pre-paid arrangements, and advice from the travel provider about any non-refundable portion of the journey.
- Any compensation and/or refunds you receive from a third party for transport, food or accommodation will generally be deducted from any settlement if your claim is accepted.
- Your travel insurance cover may be affected if you are traveling to or from areas DFAT considers high risk.
Advice for passengers
Passengers stranded by the Qantas disruptions since mid this month may well be wondering how their travel insurance will hold up under such circumstances.
As CHOICE has highlighted in previous coverage, Travel insurance reviews, insurance companies define cancellation cover in different ways and policy exclusions vary widely when it comes to travel.
Some Product Disclosure Documents (PDSs) explicitly state that cancellations caused by the carrier – such as industrial actions – are not covered. Others say the insurer covers strikes in one section of the PDS, but the wording can get hazy in other sections of the same PDS, where cover can be denied if the carrier fails to fulfil its obligations for a variety of reasons.
In the specific case of the Qantas actions, insurers have said cancellation cover only applies to policies purchased before the actions started, a date that can vary widely. (Worldcare, for instance, puts the date at 13 October, while 1cover – an Allianz product – has issued an alert applying to travel insurance policies issued before 10.00am (EST) 26 October 2011).
In a statement that’s typical of what insurers are telling policyholders regarding the Qantas situation, Worldcare says “we will assess all claims in accordance with your Product Disclosure Statement and your cover will depend on the type of plan you purchased and your particular circumstances”. (Generally, though, Worldcare does cover cancellation.)
In our coverage, Travel insurance reviews, of the sector last year, cancellation cover was the second most important weighting criteria for our overall ratings scale (medical cover was first) – so insurers toward the top end of our scale tended to provide good cancellation cover at the time of the report.
Qantas has said it will refund or re-book tickets, but CHOICE would like see some extra steps (see, Qantas apology rings hollow without proper compensation and amends) taken to compensate for this massive and costly disruption for Qantas customers. We are also calling for a review of the airline sector and a long-awaited improvement of its relationship with consumers.