Many of Britain’s biggest insurers are pulling down the shutters to new travel insurance customers, with Aviva, Direct Line and Churchill the latest to stop selling policies as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Responding to the moves, the consumer body Which? said the government, insurers and the travel sector needed to “urgently” work together to tackle the challenge because “the industry depends on people having the confidence to travel knowing they will be covered”.
On Wednesday 11 March, LV became the first big insurer to stop selling travel insurance to new customers. Then on Friday 13 March, Direct Line and Churchill said they had taken a decision to temporarily suspend the sale of travel insurance to new customers “so we can focus on our existing customers”.
A couple of hours later, Britain’s biggest insurer, Aviva, said it had “made the difficult decision to withdraw our single-trip and annual multi-trip travel insurance to new customers”. It added: “We envisage that this decision … will be a temporary action. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Direct Line and Churchill said they had experienced “a huge increase in demand” for travel insurance, and that their priority was to protect and service their existing customers. “We have not taken this decision lightly and we carefully considered many different options prior to reaching this decision.”
The changes are on top of restrictions being added to policies by these and other insurers.
The moves by several of the UK’s biggest insurers underline unprecedented turmoil in the industry caused by the spiralling cost of dealing with travel problems caused by the outbreak.
Other companies are taking the opportunity to highlight how they are still open for business. Staysure, another big player, said on its website: “If you are a new customer looking for coronavirus travel insurance, we are pleased to say that Staysure are continuing to sell travel insurance with travel disruption cover as normal.”
Ryan Howsam, the firm’s chairman, said: “We have had unprecedented demand … Yesterday [Thursday] we did just under £1m on the travel insurance. That, for us, was exceptional.”