Insurance firm refuses to cover cancelled holiday to Sri Lanka


A family whose planned summer holiday to Sri Lanka will have to be cancelled have expressed disbelief after their travel insurer refused to cover their losses, but told them they would be uninsured if they went ahead.

Sam Williams says his annual travel policy with Ecclesiastical turned out to be worthless after it emerged it would not cover the cancellation of his trip in the wake of the Foreign Office advising tourists not to travel to Sri Lanka. It will cost the family about £2,000 in cancelled flight and villa bills, he says.

In February, Williams started booking flights and accommodation for him, his wife and their two-year-old daughter for three weeks on the island in July. He says he booked the last of the accommodation just two weeks before terrorists killed more than 250 people on Easter Sunday.

Like thousands of others who had booked independent trips, he thought cancellation was certain when, last month, the Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka. The fallout from the attacks continues: this week the Guardian reported that the Sri Lankan government had imposed a curfew after mob attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned shops.

At the time of the Foreign Office announcement, the Association of British Insurers warned that travel insurance would not cover anyone disobeying the advice, but also said most policies would cover losses for those forced to cancel. But when Williams asked Ecclesiastical how he should claim, he was told that such cancellation cover was not offered as part of his annual policy.

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“It’s ridiculous,” says Williams, who lives in London. “It won’t cover the cancellation, but has said that if we continue with the trip, we won’t be insured because the Foreign Office has advised us not to go. It seems it wants it both ways. The company advised me to contact my package tour operator, but we have booked it all ourselves. It said it is getting quite a lot of calls about this. Isn’t this why we are told to buy travel insurance in the first place?”

Ecclesiastical, which was founded in 1887 to protect churches against the risk of fire, confirmed its policies did not cover cancellations due to Foreign Office advice. But following Guardian Money’s intervention, it has agreed to cover the Williams’ losses, minus the £100 excess, as a gesture of goodwill.

“We have reviewed Mr Williams’ complaint and, due to the unique circumstances of this particular case, we have decided to pay the claim to cover his travel costs,” says a spokesman. “We understand this has been a stressful time for Mr Williams and we want to do the right thing for him.”



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