You can encounter all kinds of disasters on the road. It was just two years ago that the Eyjafjallajökull-Fimmvörduháls volcano in Iceland erupted, disrupting air travel throughout the northern hemisphere. Now Mexico’s Popocatepetl volcano has been spewing molten rock up to a mile from its crater. The question you need to ask yourself is how good is your travel insurance coverage in the event of a natural disaster, such as a volcanic eruption? We routinely field questions from travelers about the types of travel insurance coverage for volcanic eruptions. We recently received a query from a traveler specifically travelling to a known volcanic hot spot in Iceland. They wanted to know about insurance coverage as it relates specifically to volcanic eruptions (and interruptions):
I was wondering what your policy is regarding the active volcano on Iceland. Would we be covered if the volcano becomes quite active before we are to leave and may lead to travel disruptions? If we are not comfortable flying there, but Iceland Air is still flying, would we be able to file a claim?
If you are planning travel to locations such as Iceland, Mexico, Ecuador, or anywhere that volcanic activity has disrupted travel in the recent past, then travel insurance is certainly a good idea. However, it’s important to know the extent of your policy coverage and when you might not be covered. There are four major issues that are all treated differently when it comes to travel insurance for volcanic activity:
- Delays or cancelation due to an eruption
- Mandatory public evacuations
- Pre-existing travel problems due to an existing volcanic eruption
- Dealing with travel anxiety when your travel carrier is still traveling.
Most insurers cover volcanic interruptions, flood and most natural disasters under the classification of bad weather. If your policy covers interruptions or cancellation due to bad weather, and your trip is forestalled by a volcanic eruption, your travel insurance would cover it. Eleven of the policies on TripInsurance.com cover bad weather as a feature of the cancellation and travel delay coverage.
Some premium policies also cover mandatory evacuation. Our US Fire Better plan (Gold) and Best plan (Platinum) provide coverage for “mandatory evacuation due to bad weather or natural disaster.” If a government agency declares the area you are visiting a disaster area and orders an evacuation, you are covered for any financial loss, particularly the cost to return home. There is a distinction here because most coverage is triggered by a travel delay due to “bad weather.” What if the weather isn’t delaying traffic, but a government agency believes that a natural disaster will hit soon, and orders your vacation area to evacuate. This policy enhancement gives you extra protection in the event that a government action affects your vacation.
We always tell our customers to buy travel insurance as soon as possible after they make their initial deposit for their trip, and preferable within fourteen days. You can only insure unforeseen risks, or in other words, problems you don’t already know about. If a volcano is already shutting down airports across Europe, and you go to buy travel insurance after you already know about the problem, you won’t be covered for that particular disaster. When it comes to hurricanes, if you buy a policy after they have already named the hurricane, you won’t have coverage for that particular bad weather problem. If you file a claim, the claims department will compare your purchase date against the date the hurricane was named, or the volcano erupted, to see if the coverage would apply. Because no one can predict when these problems will come up, it is best to buy the travel insurance as quickly as possible to make sure new problems will be covered.
No insurer will cover a travelers’ anxiety. If there is a natural disaster that affects your destination or a stopover and the airlines are still flying, and there has been no order for public evacuation, you won’t be covered for bad weather or natural disasters if you choose not to travel. For example, the volcanoes in Iceland are particularly active, and blanket the town you plan to visit with health threatening ash, but the airline is still travelling, and your hotel is still open. In this case there is no covered reason for cancellation or travel delay. More commonly, the Caribbean Island you a planning to visit is hit by a hurricane 6 weeks before your vacation, and is stripped of all vegetation. By the time your trip starts, the airlines are flying, and the hotel and town is open, but the island looks like a bomb has hit it. You want to cancel your vacation because you know it’s not going to be a lot of fun down there. Normally you are not covered for this under bad weather. You can get coverage for this kind of scenario if you elect to buy Cancel for Any Reason Coverage. All of TripInsurance.com’s Best plans offer Cancel for Any Reason options that will typically cover 75 percent or more of the non-refundable costs of the trip. The usual provision is that you need to insure the entire non-refundable portion of the trip and buy your travel insurance within 14 days of making your initial trip deposit.
It is important to remember that you can only claim a financial loss. If your vacation is a disaster, but you don’t suffer any financial loss, you can’t file a claim just because you had a miserable time. Buying Cancel for Any Reason coverage will give you the option to not go on the vacation if you think you will have a miserable time.
It is important to compare travel insurance policies to make sure that you are covered for bad weather, and that they don’t exclude any specific natural disasters. You can be covered if the unexpected occurs, such as a volcanic eruption if you buy your insurance from TripInsurance.com.