Consumer watchdog CHOICE has released the results of an investigation into the online travel insurance policies offered by Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin. It found that auto-selecting a policy when purchasing a plane ticket often resulted in a higher price tag and a raft of sneaky exclusions. Tellingly, most policies gave customers just ten minutes to review a 14,000 word document before the connection timed out.
In all, CHOICE reviewed 30 travel insurance policies from Australia's major airlines. It found that many of the options served up to consumers during the online checkout process were alarmingly sub par.
Jetstar Essentials was the worst offender, particularly when it came to flight delays. If a flight is delayed for six hours or more, Jetstar Essentials leaves its customers to fend for themselves. By contrast, other airlines provide stranded travelers with up to $425 per night for meals and accommodation.
Theft insurance was also left wanting. When electronic items such as smartphones, laptops or cameras are stolen, Jetstar Essentials pays out a maximum of just $750 for all items; a caveat that isn't immediately obvious when signing up.
In fact, all airlines were found guilty of not giving online users sufficient time to review a policy. On average, customers were given a maximum of 10 minutes to read the document before the flight payment screen timed out. Many of these documents contain over 14,000 words.
“It’s obvious the airlines don’t give consumers enough time to read the product disclosure statement to ensure they are making the right decision,” CHOICE's head of media, Tom Godfrey said in a statement.
“Buying travel insurance is not like grabbing a packet of chewing gum while standing at the checkout. Insurance policies can be complex products and consumers need to take time to ensure they are selecting a policy right for them."
While simply ticking a box might be convenient, it would appear we can't trust airlines to have our best interests at heart. CHOICE recommends that customers read the product disclosure statement (PDS) thoroughly and refrain from "opting in" to travel insurance during the online checkout process.
You can find a more extensive range of tips and recommendations at CHOICE's website.