A slippery slope to holiday insurance disaster

Skiing holidays require higher levels of insurance than some other trips
Skiing holidays require higher levels of insurance than some other trips
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Beware loopholes in the small print of your holiday insurance, warns Jeff Salway

Holidaymakers suffering skiing mishaps on overseas slopes this winter could find their trip going even more rapidly downhill if they don’t check the small print on their insurance.

People on activity breaks such as skiing holidays are at particular risk of being left out of pocket because of loopholes in their insurance, according to a new update from the Financial Ombudsman Service (Fos).

It has warned that holidaymakers are increasingly seeing insurance claims rejected because they’ve been unaware of the extra exclusions that apply to winter sports and other activities.

The ombudsman’s report came at the height of the holiday booking season and at the busiest time of year for skiing breaks.

Winter sports cover is rarely included automatically in travel insurance, more typically being offered as an optional extra. But even then it may not be adequate, said the Fos, because the extra insurance that has been paid for may still not cover every situation. Winter sports add-ons have their own exclusions that are often the cause of disputes between insurers and holidaymakers, such as liability for damage to hired sports equipment.

“If their claim is rejected, consumers often tell us that they weren’t told about the particular exclusion that the insurer is relying on – for example, liability for damage to hired sports equipment,” said the Fos.

There are added complications for older travellers on skiing holidays, as the cost of travel insurance soars dramatically for over 65s even if they have no pre-existing medical conditions.

A 65-year-old skier with no pre-existing medical conditions could pay up to 65 per cent more on average for their insurance than a 30-year-old taking the same trip, according to Gocompare.com Travel Insurance. A year older and the premium can be three times higher again, while a 75-year-old might pay seven times more than a 30-year-old skier.

Caroline Lloyd, travel insurance spokesperson at Gocompare.com, said: “Insurers set the price of their premiums based on the likelihood and cost of a potential claim.

“Unfortunately for older travellers, providers will typically take the view that older skiers are more likely to have an accident or cancel their trip, and as a result will often charge older travellers more for their insurance.”

The key is to shop around, said LLoyd, as several insurers still offer affordable premiums to the more experienced skier.

Those relying on travel insurance included in packaged current accounts are advised to be especially vigilant when it comes to the small print.

Around four in ten travel insurance complaints are related to policies held as part of a packaged bank account and this has been increasing, said the Fos, as more people rely on the insurance in packaged account rather than buy a standalone policy.

However, the policies bought with bank accounts are less likely to provide adequate cover, especially for non-standard trips.

“If you have travel insurance as part of your current account, it is so important that you are aware of what your policy actually does and does not include,” said Bob Atkinson, travel expert at MoneySuperMarket.

“Many are restricted to ‘European Travel only’ and will have limits on how long you can travel for (usually no more than one month in any trip). Also cruises and winter sports might not be covered as part of the ‘free’ product and you will often have to pay an additional fee to top this up.”

But many people travel without realising their cover isn’t valid for their trip, leaving them at risk of having to foot huge medical or repatriation bills in the event of a claim being rejected.

“Comparing your packaged account policy against standard travel insurance options will help validate the suitability of your cover and show you the value of stand-alone policies,” said Atkinson. “Good travel insurance with the right level of cover for your chosen trip is often far cheaper than you realise.”

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