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Holiday Misery – “Now try claiming on your travel insurance”

Watching all those wretched people suffering from the indignities of the delays caused by striking British Airways staff, my heart sank when I heard the announcement from BA intended to soften the horror. Any losses suffered by any of the passengers should be claimed from their travel insurers?!

For those who have experienced first hand the nightmare of trying to recoup anything from a travel insurance company, if any passengers are teetering on the edge of sanity from delays, making such a claim would undoubtedly push them over.

If you are a non believer in alien existence, one conversation with a representative from a travel insurance claims department, and you will be convinced that they have already invaded and have relocated in the claims department’s countrywide. They do speak an entirely different language from earthlings and appear to exist on consuming paper to sustain their life forms namely all proof sent by you to support your claim!

From my first hand experience this year, I know how stressful such claims can be. My father died in November. In December, the entire family decided to take my mother to Bangkok to help her to overcome her grief.

Regrettably as she was on the outbound journey she picked up her hand luggage and fractured a vertebra in her back. She arrived in Bangkok in agony and after a few days and on doctor’s advice she had to be urgently flown home. I telephoned to Lloyds Gold Card claims with whom she had her insurance and was told to purchase a new ticket for her travel and claim for this and all doctor?s and travel expenses upon her return.

The claims form sent to her was completed and returned with all invoices, doctor’s reports from Bangkok and England within a few days of her return. 7 months later the claim has still not been paid. 15 letters have been written, 8 phone calls from me, 12 from my mother and two from my sister. Lloyds have managed to lose three sets of documents, 12 letters and did not have any idea who was actually dealing with the claim.

Each time that I believe that I have located some form of human life to explain the problem, in the vague hope that my mother’s claim will be followed up, the person has left, or the claim’s handling organisation is about to change. I have been given so many excuses as to why the claim couldn?t have been dealt with, it is laughable.

For example;

  • the computer is down.
  • the documents haven?t arrived.
  • the medical report is missing.
  • the claim is being dealt with in Ireland.
  • the claim is being dealt with in England.
  • everyone is on holiday.
  • there is a further from we need you to complete that we forgot to send you 7 months ago.

In desperation, my mother telephoned to the complaints department who in turn complained that we hadn’t complained sooner but still have not finalised the claim. I have been told in the last few days that whilst the airline charged for the ticket in Dollars, and even though it appears in Pounds on the credit card, that the insurance company are only paying the current exchange rate for the dollar which means that my mother loses some 100/140 off the claim. The change in exchange rate has happened during the course of the insurance company’s delay in dealing with the claim.

I am not alone in ‘Alice in Insurance Wonderland’. Several people I had lunch with last week had had similar horror stories. Someone told me how their travel insurance company had refused to pay out in relation to a stolen wallet. They said that unless the invoice for the wallet was produced, which was in fact a Christmas present, and then supplied written proof of the monies in the wallet of £150 by producing an exchange of currency document, that they would not pay out. Since neither item could be produced the claim was rejected.

Another miserable customer tried to claim for a lost camera. They were told after 6 months that the claim would only be paid out in Australian dollars and reduced for wear and tear because the camera had been purchased in Australia. This left them with insufficient monies to purchase a new one.

Another had lost their case on a trip back from Nice. Their insurance company took weeks to agree where they could collect a new case. Then months to deal with the actual claim. They refused most of the claim because the person concerned could not produce receipts for swimsuits and matching tops or for the lost handbag. Given that the claimant hadn’t wished her husband to see all of her recent purchases, she simply hadn’t kept the receipt. Ask most women, they will tell you the same.

In another case, luggage was lost on an outbound journey. One of my friends had to buy new underwear, cosmetics and essentials for three days until she was reunited with her luggage. She spent a fortune on phone calls to the airline and travel agent and insurance company but it took nearly a year for her to recoup the amounts paid out.

Most people give up with the claims because they do not have the time or energy to pursue them. It would seem that unless you retain invoices for every purchase you have ever made for underwear, clothes, shoes, tights, make-up, cosmetics, perfume, watches, jewellery, hair dryers, hair straighteners, etc, that your claim will be refused. The insurance companies get away with perpetual refusals of claims upon the basis that the majority of society don’t keep receipts.

Most people that I talked to about a range of travel insurance from those that insured under their existing credit cards, to those that purchase separate holiday insurance and to those that use other well known providers with their medical insurance, had exactly the same experience. No one company escaped criticism for this scandalous approach to dealing with straightforward claims.

If your airline does not fly you within a reasonable time prescribed on your ticket normally 24 hours, your remedy is against the airline itself. Similarly if luggage is lost you can either claim against the airline direct or under your travel insurance taken out with your insurance company! In either case upon investigation in the majority of cases, claims are unreasonably delayed, refused or severely handicapped by inexcusable nonsense.

Given that 100,000 have been delayed by British Airways or had their holidays cancelled they will now face the hugely stressful thought of going through the insurance companies merry-go-round of claims avoidance.

Given that our hospitals are already overloaded, we do not need a substantial number of additional heart attacks, ulcers, strokes, etc which will be caused by simply trying to recoup what is right and proper.

We hear so much about the human rights of criminals, what about introducing a human right to enjoy our summer holiday uninterrupted, or if losses are sustained, our human right to recover those within a short time in full, without complications, when we have paid insurance premiums for just such events.

Life is difficult enough; holidays should be an escape from stress. If problems are experienced insurance should avoid it. If any insurance company is looking for a new logo I would suggest the motto ‘tardus mercedis’ or ‘slow to compensate’.

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