Thursday, September 16, 2010

Is it necessary to buy travel insurance before flying?

15 September 2010

PETALING JAYA: It is hard not to notice that travel insurance is being offered whenever one books one’s tickets with an airline company. These days, air tickets come with an offer for travel insurance.

However, some travellers often ask if it is necessary to buy travel insurance when purchasing the air tickets. Well, if any airline can guarantee, among others, that your plane will be on time, your luggage will arrive safely on the same flight or you will not meet with an accident, then it is not necessary to purchase travel insurance.

For many though, travel insurance has eased the pain of cancelled flights, delayed travel and interrupted trips as witnessed recently with the Icelandic volcano eruption that caused havoc on international flights around the world and threw hundreds of thousands of travellers into a state of stranded chaos.

On the local front, both Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and AirAsia Bhd currently offer travel insurance purchase for customers buying air tickets via their web portals.

Johan Aris Ibrahim ...’By the end of 2010, AirAsia Insure will be available for most of our destinations.’

In 2008, MAS was the first full-service carrier in Asia to offer its travel insurance online. The MHinsure policy provides travellers comprehensive insurance coverage for unexpected losses during their journey with access to Mondial Assistance’s 24-hour worldwide assistance.

According to MAS general manager business development Visva Sabaratnam, the scheme has been well received with 25% of the carrier’s passengers purchasing it.

He said the comprehensive policy included overseas medical expenses, travel delays, trip cancellation, loss of baggage and personal effects, and home protection in case of damage to the home during the travel period.

“We promote MHinsure on our website, call centre and ticketing offices, From the response thus far, there is certainly good awareness of this service.

“We also see an estimated 30% of international policy holders who have purchased MHinsure more than once in 2009, indicating satisfaction with the product offerings and services provided, including claims experience,” he told StarBiz.

Apart from MAS passengers, those departing from Malaysia, Singapore and Australia on any other airline can purchase MHinsure from these countries on the MAS website.

MHinsure is currently available in Malaysia, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Singapore and Sweden, and was recently introduced in the UK, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand.

With this, a total of 11 countries in the MAS network now offer online travel insurance. According to the MAS website, travellers need only to complete the online travel insurance application to be eligible for cover. There is no need for medical examination. MHinsure also offers travellers the same premium regardless of age. The premiums are based on travel duration and destination.

Commenting on its competitiveness, Sabaratnam said MHinsure was developed with the primary objective of ensuring high quality cover at affordable prices.

MHinsure Basic Plan starts from RM15 for domestic travel for a 30-day cover and RM23 for international cover for a five-day trip.

Sabaratnam said whichever international cover customers chose, MHinsure offered customers unlimited financial coverage in the case of an overseas emergency evacuation or repatriation. “This sets us apart from the rest.”

Meanwhile, AirAsia head of financial services and loyalty Johan Aris Ibrahim said AirAsia started selling travel insurance online in 2005 and the recent rebranding of its insurance product as AirAsia Insure from Go Insure had boosted public awareness on the offering.

“The rebranding exercise was prompted by AirAsia’s plans to expand the insurance services regionally and to reinforce its position as the only Asean low-cost carrier to offer travelling insurance coverage,” he told StarBiz.

He said the response had been “positive regionally” and guests were starting to be insurance-conscious when travelling, whether for business or leisure.

“We have gone from strength to strength in offering AirAsia Insure and the number of policies sold has been growing at 30% annually,” Johan said.

AirAsia’s plan starts from RM7.50 for the AirAsia Insure one-way cover for domestic travel to RM49 for AirAsia Insure return cover for international travel (11-30 days).

“Besides Malaysia, AirAsia Insure is available for travel from Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Macau, Hong Kong, China and Australia,” Johan said.

“By the end of 2010, AirAsia Insure will be available for most of our destinations and at our affiliated companies for purchase at AirAsia, and

“There is an option to purchase insurance online as a notification or prompter will alert customers on AirAsia Insure when they buy their tickets online. We have invested in strategic and targeted advertising and promotion activities,” he said.

Airlines aside, travel insurance is also offered by travel agencies, banks and insurers. In addition, credit card issuers often issue complimentary travel insurance policies to cardholders that charge ticket purchases to their cards.

By Leong Hung Yee

The Star


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