Sucheta Dalal :Planning to fly? Don’t forget your travel insurance
Sucheta Dalal

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Planning to fly? Don’t forget your travel insurance   

March 24, 2010

The next time your flight is late, do not fret over it—rather, you can turn that time into earning some money. What you need to do is buy travel insurance. This insurance provides protection against flight delays, medical expenses, baggage loss and journey cancellations.


On a yearly basis, Indians make around 12 million overseas trips. Only a few buy travel insurance—and within these few insured travellers, a smaller number of travellers know exactly what they are covered for and thus avail the benefits of insurance.


“The numbers of complaints we get are very less from people who are using travel insurance,” said Shreeraj Deshpande, head for Future Generali India’s health insurance business.


Travel insurance becomes applicable from the scheduled time of departure, to the time when you return to your place of residence, or the expiry date specified in the certificate of insurance, whichever is earlier.


In addition, buying travel insurance is also very cheap.


 “Travel insurance premium is a small fraction of the total travel related expenditure,” said Tapan Singhel, CMO, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance.


For example, consider this travel insurance plan from Future Generali India. For a travel period of four days for persons up to the age of 45, and making a trip to Europe, the premium for a $50,000 plan would be Rs391. For a similar profile, but with a coverage of $2,50,000, the premium would be just Rs1,022. For domestic flights, Apollo Health Insurance charges its customers a premium charge of Rs111, while Tata AIG charges Rs129 from its customers.


Thus, for a delay of a continuous six-hour period beyond the scheduled departure or arrival time, the insurance company will reimburse you for the flight delay. You would be insured for the expenses incurred on meals and accommodation, provided the airline does not reimburse you for the same. All that is needed to get these benefits is that you have to get a written confirmation from the airliner, including the length and exact nature of the delay. The maximum insurance these companies pay up for domestic flight delays is Rs1,500.


If you need to cancel or shorten your trip due to sickness, injury or death of an immediate family member or travelling companion, the insurer will reimburse you a sum up to Rs15,000 to Rs20,000, depending on which company you have bought your insurance from. The same would go for a trip curtailment, when the insurer can pay you up to Rs15,000, subject to conditions detailed in the policy.


In the case of permanent loss of baggage by the airline, an insurance company will also pay the amount required to purchase new items of the same kind and quality, with allowance for the condition and reasonable depreciation of the articles lost. However, the maximum amount that will be paid—on an average—by various insurance companies will be around Rs7,500 for lost baggage.


You will need a property ‘irregularity report’ from the airliner confirming the baggage loss. The liability will be limited to the travel destinations specified in the original travel ticket, including all halts and destinations specified. The payment will be reduced by any sum for which the carrier is liable to make payment, if any.


Even if you were to be evacuated due to a medical reason, the insurer would reimburse a certain amount for transportation, the cost of an attending medical practitioner from a hospital to the nearest facility and cover the necessary medical services. The maximum amount companies will provide is Rs1 lakh.


In case of international flights, if an accident were to occur—leading to hospitalisation for more than seven consecutive days—then the insurer will let one immediate family member travel to the hospital on an economy ticket, provided that the member resides in India, and the insured person was travelling alone. The family member is also covered for the costs incurred for an emergency stay.


But while buying international travel insurance, be clear on the product you plan to buy and keep in mind certain important factors like the country/countries one is travelling to and the length of travel.


“Even the sum insured will be dependent upon the country one is travelling to and the length or period of travel,” Mr Deshpande said.


The arrangements for travel assistance and the reach of the service provider are also very important. An insurance company will not reimburse any claim for any insured person due to childbirth, pregnancy or related medical complications and facts which the insured person was aware or should have been aware of, which might have resulted in the cancellation of the trip. — Aaron Rodrigues

-- Sucheta Dalal