When a volcano with an unpronounceable name (Eyjafjallajökull) erupted in Iceland four years ago, airplane flights were shutdown all over Europe, stranding thousands of travelers. Another volcano with an unpronounceable name (Bárðarbunga) is erupting now, and the situation is being closely monitored for an impact on flights and travelers. Should planes end up grounded again, how can your travel insurance help you?
The last eruption and disruption took travelers and insurers by surprise. This time, insurers are explaining their volcano coverage to travelers in advance. Several travel insurance companies provided statements explaining their current policies here.
Not all travel insurance will cover travel disruptions due to an erupting volcano. Travel insurers may handle volcanic eruptions under provisions related to inclement weather or natural disasters. Depending on when the travel insurance was purchased, the eruption may be considered a “known event” and not covered. Policies would still cover travel issues unrelated to the volcanic eruption.
Trip Cancellation, Travel Delay, and Trip Interruption Coverage
If the provider does extend coverage, trip cancellation, travel delay, and trip interruption may all be covered by the policy. Travel delay could include coverage for additional meals, lodging and transportation, up to the limits set by your policy. Any non-refundable expenses that were pre-paid might also be covered. If you are already in the location when the volcano erupts and have to find a different location to stay at, those expenses may be covered by your policy as well. Some policies might cover this as a non-medical evacuation expense, if the policy provides for that.
Trip cancellation or interruption coverage would apply if your travel provider completely shutdown during the covered period. If your provider is still operating but you do not wish to travel, you may still be covered if your policy allows cancellation for any reason.
If your travel insurance includes medical coverage, expenses related to an illness or injury due to the volcano most likely will be covered. If the condition requires medical evacuation and your policy includes medical evacuation coverage, that should still be included.
Coverage if You’re Stranded Away from Home
If you have already traveled and are unable to return home due to a flight shutdown, the policy coverage may automatically be extended. There are limits regarding how many days it will extend and by how much the policy limit can be exceeded, so check with your insurance provider for the details.
It’s worth noting that even if you don’t have insurance coverage, your airline may have a responsibility to provide for you. The rules will differ depending on where you are located and the nationality of your airline, so check with your carrier. You may need to do your own research and be persistent with the customer service representative as they do not always fully understand the rule and regulations that apply.
Speak to Your Insurer to Verify Coverage or Initiate a Claim
In all cases, you should verify the details of your coverage with the provider. Some may be willing to alter the effective dates of your policy if you are able to adjust your travel dates.
You will also need to speak with your insurer in order to initiate a claim. Even if your insurance company will not provide coverage or monetary reimbursement, your policy may include concierge services or travel assistance to help you make new bookings and cope with the changes in the situation.