High flying insurance


Regulatory authorities are scrutinising the way low cost airlines offer travel insurance online after complaints from customers who feel they are being forced into purchases. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has said that it is looking into methods used to sell insurance by no-frills operators such as easyjet and Ryanair, which both offer insurance as part of a package when buying a flight online.

Customers booking flights online with both easyjet and Ryanair have to ensure that they click a box to opt out of buying insurance, meaning that customers who forget to remove the option or do not follow the website instructions properly can end up with insurance they did not intend to buy.

An FSA spokesman said in a statement that the "tick-box" practice is a growth area in the insurance industry and one which raises concerns for consumers who may find themselves buying unwanted insurance without realising.
While customers in theory have the option to buy insurance, in practice it's bound to trip up a percentage of people who don't actively want it - or indeed, might not even know they are buying it - because they haven't noticed it is there.

Cancellation and curtailment cover, which independent insurers offer up to £3000 as standard, is often limited to as little as £500 by airlines.

Ryanair offers single trip travel insurance to UK residents from £6.50, with medical cover of up to £2 million and document cover for up to £250. The carrier admitted earlier this month that it was using revenue from ancillary charges such as on-board sales, excess baggage revenues and travel insurance to offset the cost of increasing airport, staff and fuel costs.

Easyjet quotes single trip insurance from £10.50 and offers £15 million medical cover in Europe, and this week announced that it was to abolish an upper age limit for its insurance policies, making it the first low-cost airline to offer insurance to the over-65s.

For those customers who end up unwittingly buying insurance by failing to check a box, the FSA points out that they have a 14 day cooling off period in which time purchasers can cancel their cover if dissatisfied.

The Association of British Insurers says that although it recommends travellers to take out insurance before travelling, they should not feel obliged to buy it through airline websites and should shop around to find the best deal.


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