Insurer’s response to traveller’s responsibility

 

The insurance claim

Libby and her family arrived at Christchurch airport to fly to Fiji for a family holiday. However, Libby was not able to board the flight because she did not have a valid passport to enter Fiji. Airline staff told Libby that Fiji requires travellers entering the country to have six months’ validity on their passports and Libby had only four months left on her passport. She decided to apply for an urgent passport and buy a new ticket for the following day.

 

Libby returned from her holiday and submitted an insurance claim for $972.00 –  the new ticket cost of $461.00 and the urgent passport callout fee of $511.00. Libby’s insurance company, RCF Insurance, denied her claim.

 

Libby’s position

Libby purchased her travel insurance online though the airline’s website when she bought her plane tickets.

 

Libby argued that her cancellation and additional costs incurred were unforeseen because she was unaware of Fiji’s travel requirements. Had Libby been aware of the requirements, she would have ensured she had a passport with six months’ validity before arriving at the airport.

 

Libby also argued her claim should not be excluded from cover because at the time of travel she did have a valid passport. Libby wished to travel on 16 November 2013 and her passport was valid until 4 March 2014.

 

RCF Insurance’s position

RCF Insurance declined Libby’s claim as her changed travel plans were not unforeseen. it was Libby’s responsibility and within her control to check that she met the entry requirements to travel to Fiji.

 

FSCL’s view

RCF Insurance is required to meet claims that fall within its policy. The policy provided that RCF Insurance would only cover losses that are unforeseeable and outside the traveller’s control. Before travelling the traveller is responsible for checking the entry requirements of any country they wish to visit. Had Libby made enquiries she would have discovered New Zealanders must hold six months’ validity on their passport to enter Fiji. We concluded that the loss was foreseeable and within Libby’s control to prevent.

 

Had we accepted that Libby’s loss was unforeseeable and out of her control, we would have had to consider whether Libby had a “valid passport”. This argument may have had merit as “valid passport” was not defined in the policy. We suggested RCF Insurance should amend the policy wording to provide clarity in the future.

 

Result

We concluded that Libby’s loss was not covered by the policy and RCF Insurance was entitled to decline her claim. Libby accepted our view and withdrew her complaint.

 

Tip

Before travelling check that you will meet the entry requirements for the country you wish to travel to, especially passport and visa requirements.