Travel insurance cover for ‘Force Majeure’ is still unclear for many

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Unforeseen events, such as civil unrest, terrorism, war, rioting, natural and nuclear disasters, etc., (known in the travel industry as Force Majeure or ‘Acts of God’), can result in travellers’ flights and holidays being cancelled, with their travel agent refusing to offer a refund. So will your travel insurance cover you in such circumstances?

The recent events in Japan have shocked the world, with millions of people everywhere following the news coverage of the tsunami that followed the earthquake on April 7th 2011 (and the subsequent changing status of nuclear safety). In the realm of Force Majeure, this is a rare occurrence: a combination of natural and nuclear disasters that could never have been foreseen.

Many who planned to travel to Japan from the UK (on holiday or for business) heeded travel warnings from bodies such as the World Health Organisation, and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, not to travel to the country, at least for the time being. But some did not, and found their Japan-bound flight being grounded at an airport in Europe or even Asia, where they were advised to return home.

Some of these travellers will receive a full refund on flight tickets and holiday packages, but others have been told their insurance does not cover them, as no refunds would be paid in the event of Force Majeure.

Since the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, many travel agents and airlines worldwide have placed a greater focus on urging travellers to check the validity of available travel insurance policies, before paying for their flights and holidays in full.

The British media and press have also stressed that a warning from the Foreign Office (advising against travel to a volatile or unstable country, or one that has just experienced a natural disaster, etc.) is not just made to protect travellers from any possible harm – an official statement from the Government could also affect travel insurance claims.

As well as heeding government warnings, it is essential, then, to read your travel insurance policy thoroughly and to seek out the section covering Force Majeure, before parting with your hard-earned cash at the time of booking.


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