Booking a flight online these days is less about making sure you get what you want than making sure you opt out of what you don’t want.
Whether you’re flying with a budget airline or a high-end one like our very own Singapore Airlines, be prepared to have the airline try to get you to buy their travel insurance.
In fact, Singapore Airlines, of all companies, caused a scandal recently when customers complained about being auto-included on their travel insurance, with some not realising that they could opt out.
But how good are these travel insurance policies, really? And how do they measure up compared to a travel insurance policy purchased direct from an insurer?
We’ll look at some areas of insurance offered by a typical travel insurance policy such as NTUC Income’s, and compare them with the following airlines’ insurance policies:
- Singapore Airline’s Travel Guard by AIG
- Scoot’s Scoot Protect Travel Insurance by Chubb Insurance
- Air Asia’s Tune Protect Travel Insurance by AXA
- Jetstar’s Travel Guard by AIG
Pre-existing medical conditions
In a perfect world, we’d all be in great health, everyone would look like a supermodel and nobody would photoshop their Instagram photos. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and the fact is that as you get older the likelihood of pre-existing medical conditions rises.
Well, guess what, all the airline policies from Scoot, Jetstar, Air Asia and Singapore Airlines will not cover medical expenses arising from pre-existing medical conditions. The worst part is that often it’s hard to know whether an illness is due to a pre-existing medical condition or not—but you can be sure the insurance company will try to argue that it is.
So if you’ve got pre-existing medical conditions, does that make you uninsurable? Not necessarily. NTUC Income offers Enhanced PreX Travel Insurance plans that will cover certain pre-existing conditions such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension. These plans are more expensive than their basic plans, but they’re still better than going uninsured. If you have specific needs for your travel, making sure you compare travel insurance policies before you travel is of utmost importance.
Most people make their first travel insurance claim not because they need to be air lifted home after a tragic accident, but because their trip gets disrupted due to a cancelled flight or some other mishap.
The NTUC Income plan will enable you to claim for travel delay if your flight or other transport comes more than 6 hours late, and it’s not your fault.
Oh the other hand, while all the airline insurance plans offer some kind of compensation for trip disruptions, the situations in which they will pay are narrower.
The airline plans offer travel delay benefits for delays of 6 hours or more, but if you read the clauses carefully you’ll find they’re actually much less generous.
For instance, the Scoot travel delay clause requires the delay to be due to a strike or industrial action, adverse weather conditions or mechanical breakdown/derangement of the flight. Their travel delay benefit is also only applicable to flights and not other forms of transport.
The SIA one is no different. Your delay must be due to a major travel event, civil unrest, riot or commotion, strike, adverse weather conditions, or mechanical breakdown/derangement of the carrier.
The Jetstar policy only covers you for travel delays if they’re due to a major travel event (eg. natural disaster, civil unrest), riot or commotion, strike, adverse weather conditions or mechanical breakdown/derangement of the carrier.
The Air Asia policy is even worse. The delay must be due to a strike or industrial action by Air Asia employees, natural disaster or adverse weather conditions, or mechanical breakdown or structural defects of the airline. That means that if the delay is caused by airport staff going on strike, or a bomb threat at the airport, you get nothing.
The NTUC Income policy covers you for missed connections due to delay of some form of transportation (MRT breakdowns, anyone?), and if there are no other possible travel arrangements available to you within 6 hours of your scheduled departure.
None of the airline plans offer this, which means you’d better hope and pray there are no train/subway breakdowns or strikes on the day you’re scheduled to catch a flight.
Overbooked flights and public transport
If your flight or other form of public transport is overbooked and you’re not allowed to get on, and no alternatives are offered within 6 hours, you’ll get paid a cash benefit by NTUC Income.
None of the airline insurance plans protect you specifically from overbooking. You’ll have to try to make a claim under one of the other categories like travel delay, but take note that they’ll usually require the delay to be due to some natural disaster, civil unrest and so on before they’ll let you receive a payout.
Kidnap and hostage
There are some very twisted people in the world, and in the event that you encounter one of them and get kidnapped or taken hostage (shouldn’t have worn that Rolex, eh?), you’ll get a payout from the NTUC Income policy, as well as the Singapore Airlines and Jetstar ones.
But if you were unlucky enough to have bought the Air Asia or Scoot policies, you’ll have to write off that incident as a harrowing adventure.
You often see groups of Singaporeans who’ve just arrived at Bangkok or Phuket airport queuing up at the duty free shops to buy bottles of Martell. Suffice it to say that there are many Singaporeans that have gone wild overseas.
If your dirty weekend causes you to accidentally injure someone or damage someone’s property, the NTUC Income travel insurance, which offers personal liability coverage, will pay your legal costs and damages.
The only other airline policies that offer personal liability protection are the SIA and the Jetstar ones. If you bought the Scoot or Air Asia policies, better be on your best behaviour.
The fact is, airline travel insurance seems adequate at a glance, as most of the main types of coverage are included—overseas medical expenses, personal accident, travel delays and disruptions and lost luggage. But the devil is in the details, and that’s where they often come up lacking.
Do you usually buy the airline’s travel insurance? Tell us why or why not in the comments!
Still unsure about buying travel insurance? Here are some other useful articles: