Agents have been warned they could be left out of pocket by insurance companies not paying out for clients’ travel affected by the drone chaos at Gatwick airport last year, with many policies not accounting for drone disruption.
More than 1,000 flights were cancelled at Gatwick because of repeated drone sightings over a 33-hour period in December, causing disruption for 140,000 passengers.
Agents who have made claims on their travel disruption insurance (TDI) might not receive a payout after former Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) president and Glen Travel director Alan Glen encountered problems making a claim.
The SPAA is calling for insurance companies to “review their approach” to claims resulting from disruption caused by drone incidents and asking for “greater clarity within policies about the scope of coverage”.
A spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers told TTG: “The drone disruption at Gatwick airport in December was an unprecedented incident, but this is the only case of this kind that we’re aware of.
“Customers who held travel insurance including disruption cover have been able to claim for additional costs in the usual way. Travel agents claiming on their commercial insurance should check the terms of their policy.”
Lawrence Assock, head of commercial partnership and underwriter at Affirma Insurance, which did not provide the policy to Glen Travel, told TTG travel disruption policies did not currently cover drone-related incidents unless they came under already defined categories such as acts of terrorism.
“We’re discussing coverage for drones with insurers as a possibility along with a number of other situations that haven’t occurred before,” he added. “If an insurer comes out with defined drone cover, it’s going to come at a cost.”
Glen, who remains an SPAA council member, made a £10,000 claim on the agency’s TDI policy when a customer’s holiday to Barbados was postponed for two days because of the drone incident. But the insurance company said the policy did not cover this type of disruption.
“This is just one case, but the drone incident affected thousands of travellers so it probably only scratches the surface,” warned Glen. “The overall cost to the travel industry is still unknown but runs into many millions.
“The TDI policy – a force majeure insurance – was created as a direct result of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud, which caused widespread travel disruption in 2010 and exposed a huge void in responsibilities.”
Glen, who said he was “furious” about the issue, is concerned his agency could now face legal action from the affected client.