Travel Insurance Put at Risk by Lone Travellers

travel insurance

A rapidly increasing number of Britons is putting their travel insurance at risk by booking different parts of their trip separately, a new study carried out by Marks & Spencer (M&S) Money has recently revealed.

According to the research, an increase in internet availability and usage is responsible for the new numbers: an entire half of British holiday makers book their travels independently instead of using a travel agent. But the drawback of shunning the traditional package holidays is that travel insurance policies may not cover all aspects of an individually booked trip, says M&S.

Commenting on the popularity of self-booked holidays, M&S Money revealed, perhaps unsurprisingly due to the recent surge in internet use, that as many as 78% of people with internet access use it to research holiday costs and destinations. According to the study, the most popular reason for a trip abroad is now to see family and friends, rendering the package holiday obsolete.

The research revealed that 29% of Brits now book every element of a holiday separately, meaning that no one company holds overall responsibility: the flight, hotel, and activities are all individually and separately organized. Consequently, travel insurance becomes less reliable. In the past, a travel agent would have been responsible for the entire holiday and, if a flight was canceled or delayed causing a traveler to miss a later flight, the travel agent would organize alternative travel. However, taking control of booking means taking control of cancellations and delays and can result in extra costs – travel insurance does not properly cover a DIY holiday in the same way it would do a package deal.

According to M&S Money, 35% of UK travelers encountered a canceled or delayed departure during their last trip, 21 per cent of whom were traveling independently and were not covered by insurance. These statistics highlight the importance of adequate travel insurance for solo holiday makers.

The recent chaos at Heathrow’s Terminal Five is an example of how travel plans can unexpectedly change. When at the opening day of Heathrow’s new £4.3 bn terminal was blighted by countless canceled flights, baggage delays and a temporary suspension in check-in, many travelers’ insurance deals did not cover the situation.

Following this unfortunate episode, some insurers have downright stopped offering cover for lost luggage or delayed flights to travelers going through Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

“We cannot insure for events that have already happened,” explained a spokeswoman for Direct Line, one of the insurance firms that have taken this stance. She then added: “Insurance only covers events that the customer is not aware of at the time of purchase. People calling up on our travel insurance quote line were told this specifically.”

In response to this gap in the market, M&S Money has decided to introduce an insurance policy specifically for holiday makers who book it themselves.

“As independent travel has grown we have identified changes in how customers travel and book holidays. This has changed what they need from travel insurance.” said Brendan Cook, chief executive of M&S Money.

M&S’s innovation seems to stand alone however, in a sea of insurance companies which are not answering to the current needs of modern travelers. A possible affecting factor may be the recent increase in budget holiday use. Budget flight companies offering unbelievably cheap deals are notorious for ‘giving you what you payed for.’ In other words, they often loose baggage, delay and even cancel flights. This has caused an upsurge in travel insurance claims which the insurance companies have found difficult to follow.