Date published: 4 November 2015
Once again, a volcano has erupted in Indonesia, disrupting the flights and holidays of thousands. The ash cloud is blowing north-west from Lombok towards Bali and vulcanologists have warned that they do not expect the eruption to finish any time soon.
The ‘on again’ ‘off again’ nature of flights could mean Bali travellers find themselves stuck in Bali for longer than planned, or stranded at home unable to begin their holiday.
As airlines and airport authorities continue to monitor the situation, travel insurers have seen an influx of calls in relation to cover for travel delays and cancellation cover.
Comparetravelinsurance.com.au reveals the cover cut-off periods for Australia’s leading insurers. You’re in luck if you bought travel insurance before November 2nd. You would most likely be covered for any trip disruptions or cancellations related to this event.
The majority of travel insurers will not accept claims related to the Bali ash cloud from customers who bought their policy after November 2nd, and in some cases, after a certain cut-off time on November 3rd (Eastern Standard Time).
However, travellers who purchased travel insurance before these cut-offs would be eligible for cover.
Travel insurance policies underwritten by Hollard such as Real Insurance, Woolworths and checkin.com.au are notable for their extended cut-off dates for the Mt Rinjani eruption. Customers were able to purchase cover for the event up until 5:00pm AEST on the 3rd of November.
Additionally travel insurance policies underwritten by Allianz Australia Insurance Limited, such Virgin Money allowed customers up until 5:00pm on the 3rd of November to purchase cover for the event. Southern Cross Travel Insurance customers had up until 2:00pm on the same day.
Additionally, Insure and Go who previously did not include cover for volcanic ash cloud delays, have now altered their policy to do so. Their cut-off time to purchase cover for this event was 12:00pm on November 3rd.
Whilst some insurers have made it difficult to ascertain the conditions of their policy, insurers such as TID and Insure and Go, have been extremely forthright. Helping to appease confused and frustrated customers, both insurers have taken a markedly proactive approach to assist customers by providing clear and concise warnings prevalent on their site.
Media spokesperson Kelly Herbert from 1Cover said:
“Several thousand customers are in Bali or are soon to travel there. As the risk becomes known in the media and airlines begin to cancel their flights we know that queries will come flooding in. Our staff are well prepared for instances such as these and we make it our priority to keep our customers well informed. We provide travel advice on our site and through social channels as soon as it becomes available.”
As is always the case with insurance, the type of cover, your choice of insurer and the date you bought your policy will determine whether or not you are covered. Not all insurers cover volcanic eruptions and a basic policy is unlikely to provide cancellation cover for unforeseen events.
Natalie Ball, Director, comparetravelinsurance.com.au says:
“Following flight delays becoming a known risk for Bali travellers, the travel insurers have been quick to get travel warnings up on their sites to avoid customer confusion. Generally, the larger more reputable insurers clearly state the policy purchase cut-off periods and outline exactly what is and is not covered within the warnings on their website.”
“In addition to the provider’s cut off being an influencing factor on whether or not you are covered, it is important to remember that not all policies cover travel delays or cancellation. A basic travel insurance policy is generally medical only coverage and is priced accordingly. However, standard mid-range or comprehensive policies will provide cover for unforeseen risks.”
Passenger with Comprehensive Travel Insurance
If you did purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy and were affected by the Bali ash cloud, you will likely be covered for disruption to your trip. As you bought insurance before the eruption, when the event was considered to be unforeseen, you would be on safe ground. Travellers will be covered for accommodation, travel and meal expenses provided they purchased their policy prior to the insurer’s published cut-off date.
The table below outlines the cut-off date for a number of Australian travel insurers:
|Allianz Australia Insurance Limited||Amex, Fast Cover, Virgin Money, Webjet||5:00pm AEST
3 November 2015
|Auto & General Insurance Company Limited||Budget Direct, First for Women||3 November 2015|
|Cerberus Special Risks||TID, Sure Save, NIB, Worldnomads||11:59pm AEST
2 November 2015
|Chubb Insurance Limited||American Express, Citibank, Priceline||3 November 2015|
|Great Lakes Reinsurance (UK) PLC||Covermore, Medibank Private||3 November 2015|
|Hollard||Real Insurance, Woolworths and checkin.com.au||5:00pm AEST
3 November 2015
|Mitsui Sumitomo||Insure and Go||3 November 2015|
|Southern Cross Benefits Limited||Southern Cross Travel Insurance||12:00pm AEST
3 November 2015
For travellers stranded in Bali whose travel insurance policy has since expired, their insurance automatically extends until they’re able to get home. Of course, this isn’t an excuse to let the purse strings fly. Flight upgrades and accommodation upgrades would not be covered for. Rather, insurers will only cover claims for reasonable travel expenses.
It is worth pointing out that if you had bought an annual multi trip policy with comprehensive cover you can breathe a sigh of relief. Had you purchased year-round cover any time prior to November 2nd, you would be covered for ash-cloud disruptions.
Travellers that haven’t left
Tourists who have been affected by the Ash cloud may be able to cancel their trip and claim for additional expenses in the event that they purchased their policy prior to the insurer’s cut-off date.
What to expect from your insurer
Depending upon your chosen insurer, you can expect any reasonable additional expenses as a result of the ash cloud to be reimbursed. The major insurers have set-up dedicated teams to work on the event claim phone line in order to separate these calls from the ‘business as usual’ calls so that customers can receive adequate response times.
Travellers can find more information in relation to flight interruptions in and out of Denpasar, Bali from specific carriers below:
As of today, all travellers are urged to check their flights online as Denpasar airport has been closed until Thursday morning.
Virgin has cancelled all flights in and out of Bali whilst Jetstar cancelled three flights to Bali and three flights out on Tuesday. Both airlines say that it is not clear when future flights will resume and have informed passengers not to travel to Denpasar Airport without a confirmed flight.
Thousands of stranded Australians, are expected to claim for additional accommodation and other expenses. Calls to insurance companies are expected to increase in volume by 100% or more.
Reports from 1Cover have revealed that 30% of the estimated 16,000 Australians bound for Bali each week, do not have travel insurance. Tourists expecting significant expenses due to the current volcanic crisis this week are advised never to forego travel insurance.
Natalie Ball adds:
“When it comes to unforeseen events, a comprehensive policy should cover you, but only if you purchased your policy before the event occurred. That’s why we always advice travellers to buy travel insurance sooner rather than later.”
Ash cloud consequences
As a result of Mt Rinjani's eruption, the backlog of delayed flights only continues to grow, leaving thousands of Australians stranded. With additional food and accommodation bills mounting, tourists can expect to delve deeper into their holiday budgets. So how should travellers minimise any extra costs?
Natalie Ball says:
“Our advice would be to keep any additional expenses to a reasonable minimum and hang on to your receipts. If you haven’t bought travel insurance we would strongly advise you to do so in the future. As smartraveller.gov.au says; “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.”
With the unpredictable nature of natural disasters, it’s only reasonable to expect the unexpected. Whilst you can’t always plan ahead, a good understanding of your policy can keep you calm and in control during your travels.
See our comprehensive guide on travel insurance and natural disasters for more information.