Swine flu

Approach vacation as normal says AA Travel Insurance

travel insurers are treating swine flu as they would with any other medical condition

24 July 2009

A quarter of all calls to AA Travel Insurance are now enquiries from travellers concerned about whether they are covered if they contract swine flu while they are away, the insurer has revealed.

But despite fears about the pandemic, the AA advises concerned holidaymakers to approach their vacation in the same way as normal.

Although some countries are screening visitors and some airlines are reported to be refusing travellers with flu-like symptoms to board planes, travel insurers are treating swine flu as they would with any other medical condition.

The simple assumption is that holidaymakers who feel too ill to travel must seek treatment. Those who do go on to develop swine flu and are stopped from boarding a plane or are quarantined on arrival at their destination, are covered by travel insurance, providing the policy wasn't taken out after the illness manifested itself. In both cases the illness must be diagnosed by a doctor or the national NHS helpline to be able to claim. If a traveller is prevented from flying and they don't have the disease, they should claim compensation from the airline.

Holidaymakers who feel poorly on the day of travel or have difficulty visiting a doctor to confirm their illness should be able to contact their insurance company's 24-hour helpline for advice, as is the case with AA Travel Insurance. A diagnosis from the national NHS Swine Flu helpline would be recognised.

AA comment

"Case by case, we are treating swine flu the same way we would any severe illness while on holiday. An insurer has to work on the basis that a family will not jeopardise the health of a severely-ill member by embarking on a major trip, nor will they intentionally go abroad to spend a week in the unfamiliar surroundings of a foreign hospital or quarantine accommodation," says Christian Young, director of AA Travel Insurance.

"If a traveller is beginning to feel under the weather, as often happens, we would think it natural that they may continue to travel in the hope that their discomfort is temporary. If an airline says they can't board or an airport picks up serious illness on a scanner, whether or not holidaymakers continue to travel is outside their control and is covered by their insurance."

Questions and answers on swine flu

Does your travel insurance policy cover you for swine flu? How many insurers offer this cover?

Most travel insurance policies will cover diseases as standard, and swine flu is no exception. As long as you took out the policy before contracting the disease your will be protected against having to cancel your holiday, medical costs and any additional accommodation you may require as a result of having to stay abroad until you have recovered.

If you are travelling within the EU make sure you have your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This is free and entitles you to the same medical treatment as that received by the locals of the country you are visiting. However, the EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance but complements it. Travel insurance provides cover for the costs of having to reschedule flights or extend your visit to allow you to recover, however you must contact the 24 hour worldwide emergency assistance company.

What cover is offered by your private medical insurance? And how many insurers offer this cover?

Private medical insurance will only ensure you receive treatment in the UK, unless you take out an international policy, but this is really only necessary if you are a UK national that lives or works abroad. However, private medical insurance will not cover other associated costs, such as extending your stay or having to cancel or delay flights – you'll need travel insurance for this.

What happens if you contract the disease prior to travel?

If you have taken out a travel insurance policy, and then contract swine flu, your travel insurance provider will cover you against the costs of having to cancel your holiday. However, your insurance provider will probably require a doctor's note to confirm that you have swine flu so make sure you contact your GP if you believe that you are showing symptoms. If you are unable to get in touch with your GP, follow the claim procedures outlined in your policy document and contact your insurer, who will be able to advise you on the most appropriate course of action. If you have swine-flu as a pre-existing condition then it is unlikely that your insurer will cover you for travel.

What happens if you contract the disease while you are overseas?

Your insurance provider will cover the relevant medical expenses associated with treatment for swine flu while you are on holiday. If you need to remain abroad until you recover which is a precaution that is advised by the British Government; you will be covered for cancelled or rescheduled flights and the cost of additional accommodation provided you have contacted and had agreement from the 24 hour worldwide emergency assistance company otherwise your extended stay and claim may not be valid. Make sure you buy a policy that will provide the appropriate protection – if you couldn't cope with the financial costs of something occurring, check that it is covered.

Would your travel insurance or PMI policy cover you for treatment overseas or if you needed to be repatriated?

Travel insurance would cover treatment overseas and the costs of repatriation once you've recovered. As the Government recommends that you remain in situ until you have recovered, you would probably not be repatriated until all symptoms of swine flu have cleared.

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27 July 2009