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The hijack and the backpack.

In early March 2018, Johanna contacted FSCL about a complaint she had against her travel insurer. Johanna said that when she and her partner Jack were recently travelling in South America, they were on the way to the airport to fly back to New Zealand, and the car they were travelling in was hijacked and stolen.

Johanna said she called the airport to find out if their flight could be held, but the airline said this was not possible. Johanna and Jack were too far away from the airport to make their flight. They spent $7,000 purchasing new flights back to New Zealand, and submitted a claim to their travel insurer for these costs.

After Johanna had not received a final claim decision from the insurer, we opened an investigation of her complaint and asked the insurer to explain why it had declined Johanna’s claim.


The insurer’s reasons for declining the claim


What happened on the way to the airport?

The insurer noted that, on Johanna’s claim form, she had written that while travelling to the airport and stopped at traffic lights, the car’s door was opened by an unknown person who stole Johanna’s backpack.

The insurer also pointed to the police report Johanna had provided to support her claim. The report said that while Johanna and Jack were on their way to the airport, Johanna realised she did not have her 60-litre backpack with her, and she did not know where she might have left or lost it.

The insurer also pointed to the initial information Johanna had provided FSCL about her complaint in which Johanna had said that the vehicle she and Jack were travelling in had been hijacked and stolen.


Were Johanna and Jack already running late?

The insurer also pointed to a telephone conversation Johanna had with the insurer to talk about her claim. In that conversation Johanna said the robbery happened at approximately 10:30pm and that it would have taken another 40-60 minutes to reach the airport from the point the robbery took place.

The flight information Johanna provided the insurer showed that her and Jack’s original flight was due to depart at 12:35am the following morning, and the information from Johanna’s airline’s website said customers need to be checked in at least 2 hours before the flight departure.

The insurer said, that even if the trip to the airport had been uneventful, Johanna and Jack were already well behind schedule to ensure they were checked in with enough time to make their flight back to New Zealand. Johanna and Jack would have missed their flight regardless of what happened on the way to the airport.


Different explanations provided

Ultimately the insurer said it was concerned that there were different explanations for what had caused Johanna and Jack to miss the flight. On this basis, the insurer declined the claim because customers need to make truthful statements when making claims.


Our review

After reviewing the information from the insurer, we told Johanna that it was very unlikely we would uphold her complaint. This was because there were three different explanations about the incident that occurred and, in particular, Johanna’s police statement made no mention of theft, and instead said that Johanna had misplaced her backpack. We also told Johanna it appeared she and Jack was already running late and not guaranteed to make their flight in any event.

Johanna then decided to discontinue her complaint.


Key insight for consumers

It was unclear exactly what happened to make Johanna and Jack miss their flight. However, there was enough evidence to raise doubt about whether Johanna’s was a genuine claim. Consumers must be truthful when making insurance claims.