Travel Insurance and the Bali Volcano
All you need to know
Indonesia’s landscape is undeniably volcanic. On the island of Bali, there are two active Volcanoes that dominate the island’s landscape; Mount Batur and Mount Agung, the latter of which is the highest point on the island. When there is no volcanic activity, active travellers can hike to the top from where the views are spectacular.
However, this is not always possible with the constant rumblings giving way to explosive behaviour, wreaking havoc on travel plans. The most troublesome for airlines is undoubtedly the risk of an ash cloud. The most troublesome for you, the traveller, will likely be travel insurance for Bali ash cloud problems.
What is an ash cloud and what causes it?
As the name suggests, an ash cloud is a colossal cloud of ash, smoke and debris that is emitted from a volcano following an eruption. Made up of gases, dust, rock fragments, steam and ash, the cloud is hazardous for a variety of reasons.
Smoke can hinder aerial visibility and debris can cause damage to aircraft engines. This means airlines will commonly avoid the area, cancelling flights, throwing travel plans into disarray. For those with compromised respiratory health issues such as asthma, bronchitis or COPD, it can also be dangerous to inhale the dust and particles.
What is the best travel insurance for Bali?
Travel insurers vary vastly in what they cover. Some basic policies will not cover this kind of event at all, so it’s always wise, when you know that you are going to a volcanic destination, to explore what is and is not covered. As always, reading the policy wording and all the limits and exclusions, is recommended so that you know what you are and are not covered for.
Bali travel insurance claim scenarios
In the event of ash clouds, it is likely that airports will be closed and no flights will be permitted into or out of the area. If this happens, you will want to have coverage for cancelled flights. As a result of not being able to fly to your destination, you may also miss prepaid tours, activities and accommodation. Check if these are covered by your travel insurance.
Delayed passengers are often put up at local hotels when it looks like they will be in for a long wait at an airport due to cancelled flights. Often, an airline will bear the cost of the accommodation out of courtesy but if not, then you may be able to claim for this through your travel insurance. If you don’t know what your policy covers, then you should consider avoiding incurring any expenses that you will not be happy to pay for yourself.
What to do if there is an ash cloud
If you have booked to go to Bali, you should contact your airline to see if there are any changes to your plans. Your airline may even have the facility to text or email you updates on the current situation. If you are already in Bali and about to fly home, you should still contact your airline to see if they are able to offer support in the event that your flight is cancelled. Delays could be anything from half a day to a week so be sure to have plenty of cash on you for purchases such as meals, drinks and comforts. Make sure if you are stranded at an airport, that you never leave your bags unattended or out of your sight.
If you think you’ll feel safer or more comfortable relocating to a hotel, plan quickly or all rooms in your price range may become fully booked, leaving you no choice but to sleep – or try to – in the airport terminal. Keep all receipts for everything you spend during an airport stranding, in case you are able to claim on your travel insurance. With regard to Bali ash cloud events or other unforeseen inconveniences, you need to keep your wits about you and plan for your safety and wellbeing.
What to look for in a travel insurance policy
The best travel insurance for potential Bali ash cloud issues will be one that you have examined fully and which promises to cover you for natural disasters. If you took out your policy, with natural disaster inclusions, before an ash cloud became news, then you should be covered.
But remember, timing is everything! If you try to scrape in, in the hopes of scoring a few free days’ accommodation in Bali, knowing that the ash cloud was beginning to be a problem, you can be pretty sure you won’t be covered if you try to make a claim.
Look for specific wording in the policy wording such as: “If, at the time of purchasing this product, you were aware of something that would result in you making a claim under your policy … “. Like pre-existing medical conditions, a pre-existing natural disaster like an ash cloud will invalidate any attempts to claim.
Doing your due diligence
As with all travel insurance considerations, do your research, ask questions, read the policy wording, be honest about anything pre-existing and purchase the best policy to suit your destination and any particular needs.
If you entered into a policy before 9am (NZST) Tuesday 19 September, 2017:
If you are currently travelling to Bali, and are directly affected by volcanic activity from Mount Agung you can claim for eligible additional travel, accommodation and meal expenses. For example, in the event that flights out of Bali are cancelled due to an ash cloud, you may be able to claim for accommodation and meal expenses while you wait for the flights to resume.
If you plan to travel to Bali but have not yet departed there are different options depending on your circumstances. If flights are cancelled to Bali due to the volcano, you may be able to claim for cancellation of prepaid travel arrangements or for rearrangement of the journey to another destination, whichever is lessor. We advise travellers that are affected to contact their travel provider in the first instance to understand what options are available.
If you entered into a policy after 9am (NZST) Tuesday 19 September, 2017:
Your policy covers you for unforeseeable circumstances. As Mount Agung was a foreseeable event we would expect that this was done with an awareness of the increased activity by Mount Agung and the possibility of issues arising due to this. For these policies, claims that arise due to volcanic activity associated with Mount Agung (for example, flight delays or cancellations) may not be covered. Customers would still be covered for all other usual events such as illness, accident or lost/stolen personal items.
A updated travel advisory will be released once the Mount Agung volcano event is considered to be over.