Should you stay or should you go now?
The Bali ash cloud strikes again with Virgin Australia and Jetstar cancelling flights in and out of the Indonesian island. The 'on again, off again' nature of flights could mean Bali travellers find themselves stuck in Bali for longer than planned, or stranded at home. An extended holiday could be okay or even beneficial for a few but for others this could be a major inconvenience. So what are your options if you've booked a trip to Bali?
What happens if I go?
If you have the luxury of spare annual leave and the funds to pay for extra accommodation then sticking to your travel plans is an option. If you have travel insurance, contact your insurer to get their advice on the best course of action. Depending on when you purchased travel insurance and what's included in the policy, you might even get a few extra days of an extended holiday for free, excluding any excesses to pay.
Will travel insurance cover me if I go?
If you took out travel insurance and it covers additional expenses for natural disasters (please check as not all policies have this cover) and you purchased the insurance before the ash cloud became mainstream news and before you became aware of the ash cloud and delays, then you could end up with an extended holiday paid for by the insurance policy. But be careful because some policies have quite restrictive payout limits.
Insurance products have exclusions around information that was known at the time of purchasing the product. Virgin’s policy states: "At the time of purchasing this product, you were aware of something that would give rise to you making a claim under your policy". So if you bought the insurance product after you found out about the ash cloud and then you went to Bali and became stranded, then you wouldn't be able to lodge an insurance claim for expenses incurred from any delayed return flights.
I don't want to be stranded. What are the alternatives?
If you want certainty on when you return then it might pay to change your holiday plans. Contact your airline and ask about alternative holidays or travel credits but bear in mind that you may lose any accommodation deposits that you've paid and travel insurance may or may not cover this, check with your travel insurance provider. If you have booked a package with a travel agent then you should also contact them to discuss your options.
Get travel insurance
Take out travel insurance when you are travelling overseas to cover events such as this. Most, but not all, comprehensive travel insurance policies cover cancellation expenses for events such as flight cancellations due to a natural disaster. In addition, medical expenses are not covered when overseas so if an accident occurs travellers can find themselves paying substantial amounts of money for medical care. If you're heading to Bali and you do take out insurance now, it won't cover you for ash cloud-related costs, but it may still cover you in case of medical emergency.
We've found the travel insurance offered by airlines can be poor value for money so it pays to shop around for better options.