Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Sure You're Insured with TravelSure?

The Little Mermaid, CPN
Bernadette and I took a three week holiday in Scotland and Denmark midyear, catching up with our many musician and other friends. Needless to say I felt the need to take my guitar with me. Preparing for such a trip these days is increasingly fraught. How to play it with the additional item, what to pack in your luggage and what to take as hand luggage. No matter how much research you do, no matter how many times you scrutinise the conditions and restrictions; in the end it seems to all come down to arbitrary decisions made by the official at the check-in desk. Sometimes it's an Extra Bag, sometimes it's Odd Shaped Luggage, and then there's the special category of "Musical Instrument" attracting special levies, and sometimes you're invited to take them on as hand luggage, only to be turned back at the gate! It's a lottery and an expensive one.

Of course, if you're taking your precious instrument with you you're going to want to make sure it's fully insured. And we said so to the travel agent who arranged for additional cover and we were charged accordingly and robustly. The policy recommended by the travel agency (Flight Centre) was with TravelSure (New Zealand). Our holiday would include renting a car and we wanted to be sure that was known and included. The guitar was specified at a value of $4000. More terms and conditions followed. Perused the document, signed and paid.

Big mistake.

Of course, the mistake was entirely mine - I should have read the policy in detail, all the dozen or more pages of small print. Even then I still might not have come to the conclusion that the policy was as useless for my purposes as it eventually turned out to be. I thought I was being pro-active by asking (and paying) for cover for things when the cover you really need is for circumstances.

In the event, nothing happened to my guitar. It remained safe and sound for the whole round trip. In the seven minutes it took to check into a hotel in the Copenhagen CBD, our car was accessed (I would say "broken into", but the thief appeared to be able to unlock the car without damaging it) and bags were taken from beneath the cover of the rear of the hatch. An inspired notion and quick action by Bernadette found one bag (with our passports!) abandoned in the foyer of a building around the corner. What was missing was a small shoulder bag containing my camera, Kindle, digital recorder and a bunch of SD cards. The only thing irreplaceable was the data. A fairly good result if you have to get yourself robbed. Good thing we had comprehensive insurance.

Everything was done by the book. A report filed with the Danish police and items itemised. When I returned home I spent half a day filling out the insurance claim. Amazingly I had purchase receipts for everything, except the actual bag, a total of $700. I filed my claim and waited.

A week later the email came back:
Your claim is declined under two separate exclusions. We refer you to the Travelsure policy wording under the heading “Luggage And Travel Documents” which states:
We Will Not Pay For:
2. items left Unattended in any motor vehicle unless stored in the boot and forced entry is gained.
4. jewellery, camera and video camera equipment, sound equipment, mobile telephones or portable computer equipment left Unattended in any motor vehicle at any time (even if in the boot).
“Unattended” means (refer to page 12)
a) You did not observe the loss/theft, or
b) At a distance from You such that You do not have a good chance of preventing any attempted theft.
So, even if I had taken onboard that valuables weren't covered under any circumstances, I might have still accepted the policy and kept them with me when leaving the car. If I had made it to page 12, I would've realised being in proximity to call out "Cease and desist, you bounder!" was a requirement. Makes you wonder what the insurance might actually be for - especially having paid extra for car-related eventualities. Additionally my claim referred to items being under the rear window cover (out of sight) in the back of the Fiat Panda hatchback. I was not able to say "they were in the boot"; there wasn't one. I was also unable to demonstrate "forced" entry as there was no damage.

So well done TravelSure. You got my money and didn't have to pay. My claim, after excess, was about what I paid in premium. Of course, Flight Centre is complicit in this too. Appeals to the travel agent who negotiated and sold us the policy could only elicit, "We can't go through every little detail with our clients". A quick 'Google' of TravelSure brings up plenty of similar anecdotal stuff. I'm sure others have positive stories to tell of either of these businesses; Lord knows there are plenty on the TravelSure site and I'd always found Flight Centre good in the past. I feel the travel agent, the one who is supposed to understand your needs, was remiss and cavalier on this occasion. Still, I am better informed after the fact and won't be making the same mistakes again. I shall probably make completely different ones.
Mike Moroney
Dedicated to Bernadette.

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