Russell and Sara planned to purchase a motorhome in Australia and travel around Australia for a year. They left for their trip on 3 February 2015.
On 5 February 2015 Sara found out that her elderly mother had suddenly passed away. Russell and Sara purchased airline tickets from Melbourne to Auckland return. Their tickets cost $2000.
On 9 February 2015 Russell and Sara returned to Australia and submitted a claim for their return airline tickets. The insurance company declined the claim because it considered Sara’s mother had passed away due to a pre-existing medical condition. Russell and Sara did not accept this and asked the insurance company to reconsider their claim.
The insurance company reviewed the claim and found that Sara’s mother had not passed away due to a pre-existing medical condition. However, the insurance company still upheld its decision to decline the claim because Russell and Sara did not hold return tickets to New Zealand.
The insurance policy
Russell and Sara’s insurance policy included a “resumption of travel” benefit. This benefit could be claimed if a person had to return to New Zealand due to the serious injury, illness, disease or death of a close relative. However, to claim under this benefit Russell and Sara had to meet all the requirements under the benefit’s eligibility criteria, including holding a return ticket to New Zealand at the time they discovered they needed to return to New Zealand.
Unfortunately Russell and Sara had not purchased return tickets because the exact date they would return to New Zealand was unknown.
Russell and Sara’s view
Russell and Sara felt that the requirement for them to hold return tickets to be eligible to claim the resumption of travel benefit negated the value of their travel insurance.
Russell and Sara said they should have been told by the insurance company that they needed to hold a return ticket at the time they purchased their policy. Russell and Sara also said that had they known they would need a return ticket to be able to claim for the resumption of travel benefit, they would have looked elsewhere for cover.
We found the insurance company was entitled to decline Russell and Sara’s claim. Unfortunately, the circumstances of Russell and Sara’s claim did not fall within the policy’s cover because they did not hold return tickets at the time they discovered they needed to return to New Zealand.
We could understand Russell and Sara’s frustration at not having their claim paid. However, we did not accept the insurance company was responsible for telling Russell and Sara at the time of purchase that they needed to hold return tickets to be able to claim the resumption of travel benefit. Russell and Sara had purchased their policy online and the policy was available for Russell and Sara to read online before they proceeded with their purchase. It is always the insured’s responsibility to ensure the policy is suitable for their travel requirements.
The only way to truly know what your insurance cover will or will not cover you for is to read the policy. Insurance policies may be lengthy, although all travel insurance policies are now expected to be written in clear and concise plain English so they are easier for you to read and understand.
If you are purchasing your policy online, the policy wording is usually available to read online. This gives you the opportunity to “shop around” to ensure the policy you purchase is the policy that best meets your travel requirements.