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Will my travel insurance cover flights delayed by security?

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Security measures have been drastically ramped up at airports around Australia due to the recently thwarted terror attack plotted in New South Wales to bring down a plane.

Queues have snaked outside Sydney's T2 terminal airport as frustrated travellers endure lengthy screenings at check-in. Increased security checks will also affect those bound from Melbourne, Brisbane, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Cairns, Gold Coast and Hobart.

Although international and domestic passengers have been advised to arrive at airports several hours prior to departure, travellers still risk significant delays.

Will travel insurance cover you if security measures cause you to miss a flight?

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Harried travellers may be wondering whether their travel insurance policies would assist them as a result of the heightened security measures at Australian airports.

The answer, as is often the case with travel insurance matters, will depend on the particular set of circumstances facing customers.

"The current delays travellers are facing is a complex matter as far as travel insurance goes," says Natalie Ball, director of comparetravelinsurance.com.au.

"Depending upon your policy and any general exclusions relating to travel disruptions, cancellations and terrorism, you may have cause to claim. However, our overarching message at this time is to prepare for delays and follow your airline's advice prior to making alternative arrangements."

Generally speaking, missed flights due to bad weather or events outside of the airline's control would be covered by travel insurance. However, any bolstered airport security measures would not fall under the traditional parameters of covered events.

"As it stands, travel insurance would not usually cover for increased security restrictions or for events that have already hit the mass media. Customers who have experienced issues prior to widespread news of these security measures may have provision to claim but it will depend on their specific situation," says Ball.

Despite the added inconvenience, Ball cautions travellers not to disregard any issued protocols.

"Travellers have been advised to arrive at the airport two to three hours prior to their flights for their own protection and failure to do so could affect your travel insurance claim. Passenger safety will be at the top of the agenda for the immediate future and any travel advisories issued from your airline should be strongly adhered to," she says.

While missed flights may not be covered, Ball advises travellers not to underestimate the important of travel insurance.

"Whether you're eligible to claim for the cost of your missed flights is relatively insignificant compared to many other travel scenarios. The risks of travelling abroad without travel insurance can be catastrophic should you fall ill or are injured, leaving you potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket and adrift without sufficient emergency support. No one should be travelling without it."

What are travellers entitled to when there's a flight delay?

If a flight delay is within the airline's control (due to mechanical or crewing issues) your airline will be obligated to either book you on another scheduled service as soon as space is available or offer you a refund.

Australian airlines are not necessarily obligated to account for the care of delayed customers. That being said, airlines such as Virgin and Qantas will provide reasonable meal and accommodation costs until travellers reach their final destination.

What preventative measures can you take to lessen the impact of flight delays?

It's always smart practice to invest in travel insurance prior to your trip. Under specific circumstances, travel insurance can cover you for a range of costs including cancellation fees and lost deposits.

Travellers on route to meet a connecting flight or attend a pre-booked event may also be eligible to claim for alternative travel expenses to reach their planned event.

"A comprehensive policy will often cover your alternative travel expenses to reach a planned event on time if your scheduled transport is delayed or cancelled. If you're still unable to make it, you may be able to seek reimbursement of your prepaid event tickets or accommodation costs under 'Cancellation and Lost Deposits'. Be aware however, that such claims would be assessed on a case-by-case basis," Ball says.

Consumers should also be mindful that the type of cover they purchase would make all the difference. For instance, a basic, medical-only policy wouldn't help you out in this instance.

Top tip

Purchasing a policy well in advance of your trip will ensure you're covered if a crisis occurs.

When it comes to cancellation cover for events such as a natural disaster, cut-off dates usually apply. This means that once a snowstorm or earthquake has been reported in the media, you can no longer buy insurance for that specific event.

What do you need to have ready to claim for missed flights?

  • Proof proof proof: If you experience delays or cancellation of any sort you will always need written proof of the cancellation or delay from the airline.
  • Contact your insurer: Before you go ahead and pay for any extra accommodation or flights check in with your insurer that they will cover any added costs.
  • Alert the relevant authority: If you're involved in a road traffic accident that stops you from making your flight, make sure you get evidence from the transport authority in that destination.
  • Health check: If you cannot travel for health reasons, make sure you get a 'note' from your doctor.

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