Coronavirus: Insurer Aviva cuts back travel cover

By Simon Gompertz
Personal finance correspondent, BBC News

  • Published
A couple walking through Gatwick Airport wearing latex glovesImage source, PA Media

One of the UK's biggest insurers has cut back on the cover available in new travel insurance policies because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Aviva says that people will still be able to buy its travel insurance - but they will not be able to add cover for travel disruption.

A spokesperson said: "We have decided to adjust our cover to reflect the current risks posed by coronavirus."

The news comes as airlines cancel thousands of flights worldwide.

Aviva customers who bought travel insurance before Monday still have the full level of cover.

But if the UK Foreign Office advises against travelling to further countries, a new Aviva policyholder would now not be able put in a claim under the travel disruption clause.

Instead the customer would have to wait to see if airlines cancelled flights, then put in a claim under a different clause called "abandonment". That would cover costs which couldn't be recovered from the airline.

How do I get home?

If you are stuck in a country which becomes subject to a Foreign Office warning, you would not be covered by a new Aviva insurance policy for return tickets.

You would have to rely on your airline to get you back.

In practice, many travellers may find that they are looked after by their carriers.

If you are on a package holiday, the tour operator should offer a refund or a rebooking, or get you home.

'Unforeseen and unexpected'

Aviva's move shows the level of concern in the insurance industry about the escalating cost of dealing with travel problems caused by the outbreak.

Aviva said in its statement: "Insurance is designed to provide cover for unforeseen and unexpected events and is priced on this basis.

"The outbreak of the coronavirus means there is an increased likelihood of disruption to people's travel plans."

One specialist travel insurance provider, Sportscover Direct, has announced a "coronavirus exclusion" from this week, which will apply to newly-sold policies.

Image source, Lora Jones - News Analysis
Image caption,
Specialist insurance firm SportsCover Direct has announced a "coronavirus exclusion"

A message on its website said that from now on its insurance "does not cover any loss, damage, liability, cost or expense of whatever nature directly or indirectly caused by, arising out of, contributed to by, or resulting from Covid-19."

Sportscover Direct claims to be the UK's largest online specialist sports insurance provider, selling cover for ski and mountaineering trips and a range of extreme sports.

Other insurers, including AXA UK or the RSA, are still offering more comprehensive travel cover.