These case studies have been modified so as not to identify any actual cases at FIDReC. They are provided for purposes of learning and are not necessarily indicative of outcomes at FIDReC.
Simon was a 69-year-old retiree. He planned to travel to a few cities in China with his wife, Cindy, in late January 2020. In November 2019, he purchased the air tickets from a budget airline. In early January 2020, Simon and Cindy saw in the news that there was an outbreak of severe pneumonia cases in Wuhan city, Hubei Province, China. They did not pay serious attention to this news because Wuhan city was not on their itinerary and they thought these cases were of a one-off nature.
As the travel date drew closer, Simon and Cindy purchased a single-trip travel insurance policy. As was their practice, they made the purchase 3 days before their scheduled departure. But on the following day, their budget airline emailed them to state that their flight to China was cancelled. In light of the flight cancellation, Simon and Cindy were unable to continue with their trip. They proceeded to file a claim for the “Trip Cancellation” benefit under their travel insurance policy. They wanted to claim for the air tickets and accommodation they had paid for upfront.
These amounted to $800 per person. After reviewing their claim, the insurer rejected it. The insurer explained that they were not liable for the claim as the Covid-19 situation in China at the time they purchased their insurance was a known event. Further, the insurer had published on their website that any claims relating to Covid-19 for any travel insurance policies purchased after the cut-off date would not be admitted. Both Simon and Cindy came to FIDReC after unsuccessful appeals to the insurer. Simon and Cindy went through mediation at FIDReC.
At mediation, it was pointed out that at the time of purchase of the travel insurance, the travel advisory issued by the Singapore Government only referred to Wuhan city and not to other parts of China. The insurer also acknowledged that Simon and Cindy may not have been aware of their website announcement. The insurer offered to settle the dispute on a goodwill basis for $200 per person. This being a refund of the premiums paid with a nominal deduction for administrative charges. Both Simon and Cindy accepted and entered into a written settlement with the insurer.
Key Learning Points
• Buy your travel insurance early. The future is unpredictable and unexpected situations can happen anytime. If you are purchasing a single-trip travel insurance policy, you can mitigate your risk by doing so as soon as you have confirmed your trip.
• For frequent travellers who have an annual travel insurance policy, ensure that your insurance policy is still in force and the effective coverage period covers the entire period of your trip. You may not be covered under the insurance policy if it expires during your trip.
• Before purchasing your travel insurance policy, always shop around first. Although many travel insurance policies provide similar cover, the scope and ambit of the cover may differ.
• Pay attention to the Terms and Conditions of the insurance policy. Some travel insurance policies may not cover certain situations or events. Choosing a suitable travel insurance policy will help to minimise your inconveniences and losses.
• Before filing the claim, make sure that you have all the documents required by the financial institution. The required documents are generally listed in their claim form or their website.
• In most cases, the financial institution will need you to show documentary proof that the claims you are making will not be refunded. It is prudent to get this written confirmation before submitting your claim.
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