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Archive for March, 2008

A luggage mountain – uphill all the way for Terminal 5

Monday, March 31st, 2008

One in ten flights cancelled and 15,000 bags clogging the state of the art baggage retrieval system, the problems that have hit Heathrow Terminal 5 still continue.  To BA’s credit, they have brought in extra manpower to try and sort it out over the weekend but it is a huge uphill struggle to make any headway and it will be days before the luggage mountain is completely shifted.  More flights will be cancelled this week which comes right at the time when the main Easter holidays are about to start with well over half the nation’s schools breaking up on Friday.  Timing could not be worse and BA, who have already cancelled over 450 flights, are facing a costly bill, estimated at £20 million so far and rising.  What is clear though is that passengers should be travelling with some form of travel insurance protection.  Although under EU law, airlines are obliged to pick up the full bill for an overnight stay for flight cancellations, not the initial offer of £100 by BA, this is only one part of the costs faced by a passenger with a cancelled flight and lost or delayed bags.  For example, let’s take a cancelled flight.  If this affects you getting to your destination and the delay is unacceptable, then most travel insurance policies, after a period, normally 12 to 24 hours delay, will cover you for abandonment.  What this means is that you can claim back the cost of your holiday up to the amount specified in your policy less the policy excess.  You might choose to sit and wait for the next available flight, particularly if you are going on a holiday for a week or more but, for those taking the increasingly popular short or mini break, the abandonment option is a very valuable insurance to have and comes as standard in most travel insurance policies.  And don’t forget those lost bags.  How irritating to get to your final destination only to find your bags are still in the Terminal 5 mountain.  Provided you have travel insurance, you should be covered for the purchase of emergency items and clothing to continue your holiday whilst you wait for your bags and, if you are unlucky to find your bag is permanently lost by the airline, then you will be able to claim for the bag and contents, again up to the limit as specified in the policy.  So our best advice is don’t leave the house without travel insurance.  It won’t cut the delays nor retrieve a lost bag, but it will make it easier to bear.

Technical glitches hit T5 opening – say that again!

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Even after a massive £4.3bn investment, teething problems, according to BA, have plagued the opening of Heathrow terminal 5.  Major technical difficulties have caused chaos in the luggage halls with bags going missing, severely delayed and forcing some aircraft to depart without any bags at all.  Other technical problems have caused check-in to be suspended for a while leaving passengers frustrated and angry with some flights delayed and cancelled.  And it’s not just passengers who are angry.  The travel insurance industry is once again bracing itself to pick up the pieces with claims for delayed departure, abandonment and lost or late baggage, there is going to be a huge number of passengers making claims against their travel insurance policies and against British Airways under the European Air Passengers Rights.  Not all passengers will have travel insurance but many will and, although it won’t solve the immediate problem of where are my bags?,  is my flight delayed?,  it will ease the financial pain later on.  A good travel insurance policy will cover you for delay after a qualifying period of time so at least you won’t be out of pocket for the snacks and endless cups of coffee waiting for your flight or missing bags.  Check what your policy covers and make sure you get a letter from the airline confirming the duration of any delay.  For missing bags, get a Property Irregularity Report from the Airport Lost Luggage Section.  Do keep any receipts for expenditure as well as this will help in any subsequent claim.  If when you get to your final destination and your bags are not on your flight, again get a report from the airline.  What travel insurance should provide in these circumstances is an allowance, usually based on each 24 hours the luggage is delayed, for you to buy essential replacement items, such as clothing and toiletries, for you to survive until your bags arrive.  There will be an upper limit to this daily allowance and your travel insurance company will be looking for receipts for these items to accompany any claim you make.  This still requires you to pay first and claim back later but at least it means you won’t be too much out of pocket.  Do again remember to obtain a Property Irregularity Report.  You will need to send this to your travel insurance company to substantiate your claim and they will also be looking for proof of when the bags were returned to you, so a signed and dated receipt will also be expected.  If you don’t have these, then it is very possible that the insurers will not pay your claim.  If your bags become ‘irretrievably’ lost, then the insurance company will need a letter from the airline confirming this and you will then be able to claim for all the lost items under the Lost Baggage Section of your policy.

Travel and Insure launches new travel insurance policy

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Travelandinsure launched their new travel insurance policy in mid March.  Backed by AXA Travel Insurance Limited, part of the wider AXA Group, and underwritten by IPA Germany with medical assistance and claims handling through AXA Assistance, travelandinsure are now able to offer a comprehensive and competitive travel insurance package up to age 74 with additional cover for Winter Sports, Wedding, Golf and Business travel.  A spokesperson for travelandinsure said that this was a very exciting development and would allow the company to move forward with an excellent product.  Travelandinsure is trying to break the mould by offering the customer more than a simple travel insurance policy but to link it into support for aid projects and humanitarian relief worldwide. ‘Be in two places at the same time’ is how it is best summed up for the customer.  Whilst being covered by travel insurance in one destination, they can be helping people in need elsewhere is how it is explained by travelandinsure.  The company has also launched its new website at the same time to offer customers a smooth and quick quote to sale experience and has teamed up with other providers to offer travel insurance for those with pre-existing medical conditions and for those over age 75 through the travelandinsure website.  To complete what can be offered, Holidayautos and Holidayextras, both important operators in the travel industry, are partnered with travelandinsure to provide the important add-ons to any holiday, from airport parking to car hire in the UK and abroad.  To find out more, simply log onto www.travelandinsure.com

Short Easter Break – well not this year!

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

With Easter now behind us, we can look forward to the summer ahead.  Well almost, but with Easter being the earliest on record, well since 1913, you can understand why some people are confused because many schools don’t actually break up for the Easter break until April, a good two weeks after Easter itself.  Whilst this disconnect is a fairly rare occurrence, what it does do is extend the spring holiday season to a good four weeks which has resulted in a much more even spread of people taking short breaks and family holidays, at home and abroad.  This is good news for tour operators, hoteliers and the carriers and, with the ideal combination of abundant snow in the Alps and North America and spring sunshine on the Costas, it has never been a better time to seek out a last minute good deal.

The same good deal can be said about travel insurance and it is always worth shopping around.  The traditional way of buying through a travel agent is the most expensive and on the way out as new legislation to guard against dubious and selling comes into force.  It will still be possible to use this route in the future but it is unlikely to bring down the cost of travel insurance to what can now be found through the internet.  Type in travel insurance in any search engine on the internet and you will find, literally, millions of sites wanting to sell you travel insurance.  Narrow your search by typing in Cheap, Family or Winter Sports Travel Insurance and you should be able to find a policy that both suits your needs but does not break the bank either.  Let’s face it, we all know we need travel insurance but don’t want to pay through the nose to get it.  The golden rule is do check the small print before you buy, as generally, there will be less cover, the cheaper the policy though not always. Medical expenses and cancellation cover are crucial areas which apply to all policies but some providers offer reduced cover for a lesser premium. And if you are going on a Winter Sports holiday, do make sure that you have this activity covered in the policy you buy.  Many high street banks offer free travel insurance if you hold a premium account but restrictions do still apply and it is quite possible that extra activities, such as Winter Sports, will only be added to these policies for an extra premium. You can be caught out thinking that you are covered when you are not.

Strikes and stoppages mean one thing – Travel delays ahead

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

A threatened BA pilots strike is still on the cards for this Easter with 86% of the carrier’s pilots voting in favour for some form of industrial action.  One can only hope that common sense will prevail but it is now a regular feature in our every day lives that staff with a grievance will target the busy holiday periods to put pressure on their employers.  And it is not just the airlines who are at risk.  Airports authorities are also vulnerable to strikes and stoppages.  Whether this industrial action is justified or not, it will be the traveller who suffers and long queues at check-in desks are now becoming the norm and not the exception.  Add to that other occurrences, such as the recent computer failure in the baggage handling system at Heathrow Terminal 4, the attempted terrorist attack at Glasgow airport in 2007 and the heightened security alert at Heathrow in the summer of 2006, it is now common place for our travel plans to be disrupted by events outside our control.

Whilst we cannot totally avoid being affected, apart from electing never to travel of course, we can limit the financial loss by taking out adequate travel insurance which will provide financial cover and compensation if caught up in airport holiday chaos.  To start with, all travel insurance policies should have a travel delay section, generally to pay a fixed amount for each 6, 12 or 24 hours delay experienced.  This is what is termed as a benefit so does not require receipts to claim but you will need a note from the carrier or airport to confirm the number of hours delayed.  Secondly, most travel insurance policies will have a section for Abandonment.  This is just another term for cancellation which permits the traveller, once they have experienced the required number of hours travel delay, to cancel their flight and holiday in its entirety and claim back the costs.  Whether you choose this option will depend on many factors, such as the length of your trip away, how long the delay will be and personal preference but it is a very valuable addition to have in any travel insurance policy.  One word of warning, all travel insurance policies will have a clause that excludes any claim from being paid if the strike had been known about before the flight and holiday had been booked so it always prudent to check before you go firm on any travel plans.

With travel insurance now very competitively priced, particularly when purchased over the internet, who can really afford to travel without any cover at all?  It is probably a risk not worth taking when faced by the threat of yet another year of strikes, stoppages and delays.

Swim with sharks?  Think Hazardous Activity before you jump!

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Want to swim with dolphins?  No problem, but want to do the same with sharks, even from inside a cage, then that’s a ‘whole new kettle of fish’, no pun intended!  We do want you to have a ‘whale of a time,’ there he goes again, but it all boils down to the small print in the policy.  Want to make sure?  Then dive straight into the Hazardous Activities section first, and not the ocean, and all should be revealed or not as the case may be.  Many of us assume that we are covered for that one-off opportunity that always presents itself when we are on holiday.  Perhaps it’s because we are feeling relaxed and taken in by the smooth patter of the ‘Holiday Rep’ and sign up for the night time ‘toboggan run’ or once in a life time ‘bungee jump’ but how many of us think “does my travel insurance cover this?”

Most travel insurance policies will have a list of sports and hazardous activities that are included as standard and even offer, with the payment of an additional premium, cover for activities at the more extreme end of the sporting spectrum.  But it does pay to look closely at the small print in your policy as this is an area where, buying cheap travel insurance, if we stick with the fish theme again, will definitely bite you if you ‘shrimp’ on the cover.  Having an accident can be very costly, after the event, and your travel insurance will definitely not cover you if the activity you have chosen to do is not on the approved list.

Your travel insurance policy is there to pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong, and not just in a figurative sense.  Surgeons can do marvellous things these days with body parts that have become detached, even as a result of shark diving, but it will definitely cost an ‘arm and a leg’ if you don’t have the travel insurance cover in the first place!

Lose your luggage but don’t lose your cool

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

The latest poll on lost luggage has many well known airlines with very poor records for looking after our holiday bags.  According to the Association of European Airlines, on average around 25 out of every 1000 bags gets delayed and 1 bag in 2000 will be lost permanently.  These are not good odds and none of us can safely say these days that it won’t happen to me and most of us will know of someone who has had this happen to them.  Losing a bag can be a distressing experience, made worse by the generally poor customer service at some airport’s lost luggage counters and, if it happens on the outward journey, what do you do?  Do you make do with the clothing you have in the hope that the luggage will arrive or buy replacements?  Tough decision to make and is all very stressful at a time when you should be enjoying your holiday?  There is no magic wand to wave here but you can help yourself by being adequately protected by having travel insurance cover in place before you go.

What travel insurance should provide in these circumstances is an allowance, usually based on each 24 hours the luggage is delayed, for you to buy essential replacement items, such as clothing and toiletries, for you to survive until your bags arrive.  There will be an upper limit to this daily allowance and your travel insurance company will be looking for receipts for these items to accompany any claim you make.  This still requires you to pay first and claim back later but at least it means you won’t be too much out of pocket.  Do remember to obtain what the airlines call a ‘Property Irregularity Report’ from the Lost Luggage Section at the airport at the time your bags go missing.  You will need to send this to your travel insurance company to substantiate your claim and they will also be looking for proof of when the bags were returned to you, so a signed and dated receipt will also be expected.  If you don’t have these, then it is very possible that the insurers will not pay your claim.  If your bags become ‘irretrievably’ lost, then the insurance company will need a letter from the airline confirming this and you will then be able to claim for all the lost items under the Lost Baggage Section of your policy.

But as the title suggests, remain calm and keep your cool in these situations, get the required paperwork, know what you can claim for and get on with your holiday.  After all, ‘worse things happen at sea’ as they say, but that I suppose not what you want to hear if you contemplating going on a cruise!

Report on Aid Programmes – 2007

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

At travelandinsure.com we really do try and make a difference. As our Homepage declares, “travel insurance with a difference,” our intention is to identify aid programmes that support self sufficiency and not create a culture of aid reliance and dependency. We welcome feedback on priority areas on which to focus our efforts and indeed are always receptive to particular projects that come to our attention through our customers. Primarily our concerns are to alleviate the effects of poverty and we support existing aid organisations that already have established efficient infrastructures so that we can be confident that funds are being used to target specific problem areas. This is an efficient use of resources but also means that we can carefully monitor where and how funds are being used and the effectiveness of individual aid projects. In this, we liaise closely with Trade Aid UK who have been generating funds for several years to support aid efforts globally. We are proud to be involved in this important work.

So what have we supported in the last 12 month? Through the charity, Links International, we have provided essential funding to purchase water filtration units to help bring clean fresh water to remote villages in Uganda that have no source of safe clean water. The units work by a simple filtration system which will take any water, no matter how polluted, and by a gradual overnight process will filter a bucket of filthy water into water totally fit for human consumption. These units work on a small scale so each family in a village can have their own supply. This is an exciting new project with huge potential worldwide. Access to a safe and clean water supply is denied to well over a billion people so we are carefully monitoring the success of these units in Uganda with a view to distribute them to other countries with people in similar need. Funding has also been directed to primary healthcare teams in Southern Africa. Training is provided to local staff who travel to remote villages and locations to instruct on simple healthcare issues with tremendous success. These teams have proven to be a very effective instrument in improving infant mortality rates and overcome the misinformation and obstructive thinking on such crucial areas as aids, childbirth, nutrition and basic healthcare. We hope to maintain this effort as an ongoing project.

Ethical Travel Insurance – Marketing ploy or real innovation?

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

There has been a recent boom in ‘Ethical’ products following on from the success of ‘Fair Trade’ and ‘Organic’ but is this all marketing hype designed to boost a company’s profits? There is no doubt that the use of any of these labels opens up a totally justified debate on whether they are sufficiently defined to give the general public the assurances they need. The selling of ethical insurance and financial products falls into this category. A simple claim that a percentage of profits are channelled into good causes is all well and good but the discerning customer should look beyond these headline grabbing claims and ask serious questions.

Take Travel Insurance – there are literally hundreds of companies, many well known, that jump onto the bandwagon simply to try and grab a share of this growing market. This is tantamount to using strong arm tactics to drown out the voices of those genuine companies and charities that are offering ethical travel insurance with a difference. Only by looking at the whole picture can you appreciate what makes these new up and coming ethically driven companies a much more attractive option for those who do care about where they put their money.

Whether it is directed at helping those in need, say in the developing world, or aimed at ecological issues, such as climate change, how companies in the financial sector face up to the growing demand for Corporate Social Responsibility will be the benchmark requirement on which they will be judged in the future. In financial services broadly, and travel insurance in particular, travelandinsure.com with its ethically viable and socially sustainable product, is among a core of companies who have realised that this is central to how their business operates, and are truly making a difference.