You’ve made it to one of the last pages of your flight ticket booking and you’re getting options to top up things like meals, baggage, travel insurance, and car rentals among others. You know you don’t want to pre-order your meals (or maybe you are one of those rare few who loves airline food), so the only thing that really makes you stop and think is whether you really need the travel insurance that your carrier keeps prompting you to add.
If you choose to add on travel insurance, are you saving money? And do you really need it? I mean, how many people do you know who have actually had to make use of their travel insurance? But then again, what if it is added by default (as experienced by some rightfully disgruntled Singapore Airlines passengers earlier this year), is there guilt associated with opting-out? Is the coverage provided just as good as stand-alone travel insurance policies? So many questions and hardly any concrete answers. Until now.
First off, let’s remind ourselves of the kind of coverage we expect out of a travel insurance policy
In general, a comprehensive travel insurance policy will cover you for:
- Personal accident and death
- Medical expenses
- Trip inconvenience
- Evacuation and repatriation
- Trip cancellation
- Trip delays
- Baggage delay
- Baggage loss and damage
Travel insurance from an airline versus an insurance company
We can give you a generic list of pros and cons, but that really won’t answer all the questions you have. So, let’s compare travel insurance policies offered by Singapore Airlines, Scoot, AirAsia, and Jetstar to NTUC Income and Aviva’s Travel Plus plan.
Here’s a summary of what airline travel insurance policies cover and what travel insurance from an insurance will usually cover:
|Singapore Airlines||Scoot||AirAsia||Jetstar||NTUC Income||Aviva Travel Plus|
|Trip postponement||Covered||–||–||Covered (only for round-trip journeys)||Covered||Covered|
|Shortening of trip||Covered||–||Covered (only for round-trip journeys)||–||Covered||Covered|
|Trip disruption||Covered||Covered||Covered (only for round-trip journeys)||Covered||Covered||Covered|
|Overbooked public transport||–||–||Covered (only for round-trip journeys)||–||Covered||Covered|
|Insolvency of the travel agency||–||–||–||Covered||Covered||–|
|Loss/damage of baggage and personal belongings||Covered||Covered||Covered||Covered||Covered||Covered|
|Loss of money||Covered||–||Covered (only for round-trip journeys)||–||Covered||Covered|
|Loss of travel documents||Covered||Covered||Covered (only for round-trip journeys)||Covered||Covered||Covered|
|Personal Accident and Medical Benefits|
|Medical expenses overseas||Covered||Covered (only for round-trip journeys)||Covered||Covered||Covered||Covered|
|Medical expenses in Singapore||Covered||Covered (only for round-trip journeys)||Covered
(only for round-trip journeys)
|Treatment by Chinese medical practitioner/chiropractor||Covered||Covered (only for round-trip journeys)||–||–||Covered||Covered|
|Overseas hospital allowance||Covered||Covered (only for round-trip journeys)||–||Covered||Covered||Covered|
|Emergency medical evacuation||Covered||Covered (only for round-trip journeys)||Covered||Covered||Covered||Covered|
|Compassionate visit||Covered||Covered (only for round-trip journeys)||Covered (only for round-trip journeys)||–||Covered||Covered|
|Kidnap and hostage||Covered (only for KrisFlyer miles)||Covered (only for round-trip journeys)||–||–||Covered||Covered|
|Personal liability||Covered||Covered (only for round-trip journeys)||–||Covered||Covered||Covered|
|Rental vehicle excess||Covered||–||–||–||Covered||Covered|
1. Trip cancellation and delay
When you think of travel insurance, you won’t be blamed for thinking of facing a medical emergency abroad. Maybe you think of your insurance as the white knight that saves you. Real life is less dramatic, though. Most people tend to make their first travel insurance claim due to trip cancellations.
|Singapore Airlines||Scoot||AirAsia||Jetstar||NTUC Income||Aviva Travel Plus|
|S$5,000 (for travel to ASEAN and Asian countries)
S$10,000 (for international travel)
|A maximum of S$600 for flight delays and up to the cost of the flight for a cancelled flight||Up to the original cost of the flight||Up to the original cost of the ticket||S$15,000||S$5,000|
Seems quite generous, doesn’t it? But the devil is in the details.
Scoot’s coverage for trip cancellation kicks in only if your flight has been delayed or cancelled due to civil strife or bodily injury that confines you to a hospital. So, if your travel agency declares bankruptcy before your trip, say goodbye to your money.
Singapore Airlines’ insurance policy and Jetstar’s policy also kick in only if there is civil unrest, a natural disaster or mechanical breakdown of your flight.
But if you are protected by AirAsia’s policy, well, expect to be covered for delays and cancellations only if AirAsia employees decide to go on a strike, a mechanical breakdown of the airline or a natural disaster. Any other reason and you get nothing.
NTUC Income and Aviva also have exclusions. In the case of these policies, coverage isn’t provided when you cancel your trip or you choose to not travel due to a family member being sick or has a non-serious injury.
2. Pre-existing medical ailments can cost you heavily
In a perfect world, we would all be in the pink of health. In this perfect world, we wouldn’t be discussing the medical benefits your travel insurance policy comes with. But, we don’t live in a perfect world and pre-existing medical conditions are a fact of life (for many of us).
NTUC Income is the only insurance provider that provides coverage for pre-existing medical conditions. This catch here, though, is that coverage for pre-existing medical conditions is provided only if you opt for their Enhanced PreX Prestige or Enhanced PreX Superior plans. And since there is no way of knowing if your medical condition existed before it made its presence felt, there could be a chance that your airline travel insurer may cite pre-existing medical conditions as a way to refute your claim.
3. You will end up bearing the expenses for missing your connecting flight
Ever been in a situation where a delay caused due to heavy traffic or a strike has led you to missing your connecting flight to another city or back to Singapore? Well, most travel insurance policies (whether issued by an airline or an insurance company) will cover missed connections. But there are conditions.
For instance, AirAsia will cover missed connections but only if there has been a natural disaster or there is a mechanical breakdown of the connecting flight. Similarly with Scoot.
NTUC will also cover you in case your confirmed scheduled transport is delayed or overbooked and you have no other means of transport.
Do keep in mind though, that coverage for missed connections will not be eligible if you miss you are delayed and miss your first flight out of Singapore.
4. You don’t get coverage for hostage situations and kidnap
We live in extremely unpredictable times where kidnap and hostage situations are a reality. While airline travel insurance policies do offer coverage for hostage situations, there are riders to them. Both Scoot and Jetstar policies will cover only round-trips, while Singapore Airlines provides hostage cover only for KrisFlyer members.
NTUC and Aviva cover both hostage and kidnap situations for both one-way and round-trip journeys.
What is our final take on buying travel insurance from airlines?
Although airlines sometimes offer you cheaper travel insurance plans, and it’s incredibly convenient to buy, they might end up not being very helpful. We recommend buying a travel insurance plan directly from an insurance provider as the coverage is wider, the policy is customisable, and premiums are still affordable. Most companies also offer tie-ups with banks to offer discounts if you use a specific credit card.
That being said, we’re noticing that more and more airline insurance plans are improving, but it’s still a tad difficult to get the full details of the policy when you’re in the midst of booking your tickets.
If you ask us, we still prefer to buy our travel insurance separately.