Like many other readers, I have had a holiday cancelled as a result of the pandemic and am being pressurised into accepting a credit note instead of a refund. My concern is that if I rebook for next year it will be very hard to get affordable travel health insurance, especially as my wife has asthma. The position is made worse by the UK ending its participation in the EU’s EHIC health scheme at the end of this year. I am concerned that any vouchers for travel in 2021 might ultimately prove unusable. Do you have any advice on future availability, price and likely exclusions of travel health insurance?
BS, Amersham, Buckinghamshire
No one knows the answer to that yet. A best guess is that few policies will cover pandemics and that premiums will rise. It’s estimated that the pandemic will cost travel insurance providers nearly £300m in cancellation payouts and industry insiders predict a price rise of about 10%. “We can’t say at the moment what will be available on the market and when, especially for someone with a pre-existing medical condition,” the Association of British Insurers explains. “Travel insurance is a competitive market and will seek to help customers as the situation becomes clearer over the coming months, but there is currently no guarantee that a suitable policy would be available to this reader when they need it. With or without the EHIC, travel insurance is still necessary to ensure access to emergency medical treatment.”
You’ve highlighted a crucial concern about the travel industry’s insistence on credit notes or vouchers instead of refunds. For cancelled flights and package holidays this is illegal. Under EU law, airlines should refund the cost of a cancelled trip within seven days and Package Travel Regulations require holiday operators to refund within 14 days. Firms, with the sanction of their trade body ABTA, are holding out in hopes the government will relax the rules to save the industry from meltdown. However, credit notes and vouchers may not be protected if the company goes bust before you can use them. You should therefore insist on a refund so you can be flexible about future travel plans. According to Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, the future impact of the pandemic on travel insurance could be severe. “This leaves many who have upcoming trips in a very difficult situation,” he says. “If you have already accepted a postponement or credit, contact your travel insurer as they may be able to transfer your existing cover to the new dates and destinations.”
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