Analysis of the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) July, August and September International Air Passenger Traffic data reveals that 1,914,550 travellers may have travelled abroad uninsured this peak holiday season. Medical Travel Compared, a specialist travel insurance comparison site, analysed passenger data from all UK airports flying to popular European destinations that were on or added to the government’s quarantine list including Spain, Balearic Islands, Portugal, Greek Islands, Canary Islands, The Netherlands, France, Hungary, Switzerland, Malta and Iceland.
Spain and the Balearic Islands attracted 721,598 holidaymakers in August and September 2020, despite the country coming off the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) list at the end of July. The most popular destinations for Brits in mainland Spain were Alicante (151,526 air passengers) and Malaga (143,150 passengers), while Palma (98,943 passengers) was the preferred location when visiting the Balearic Islands. Analysis also showed that more than half of all arrivals to Spain and the Balearic Islands departed from a London airport – London City, Stansted, London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Luton – with Manchester topping the preferred list for those living in the North.
Portugal was a hot destination for travellers with 125,238 flying in July and September when the destination was off the advised FCDO travel list. Faro was shown to be the most popular arrival airport as two-fifths of Brits travelled headed to the Algarve.
Despite the Canary Islands only being placed on the quarantine-free travel list on 25 October, British travellers continued to fly to the Canary Islands this summer with 139,462 taking to the sky. Tenerife was the number one destination welcoming 69,585 visitors.
“Discovering that nearly 2million travellers may have travelled uninsured this July, August and September is very worrying. Travel insurance is an essential element of taking a holiday, especially now when the whole world is experiencing the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic,” commented, Tommy Lloyd, MD of Medical Travel Compared.
“During the European summer holiday season, travellers were placed in a difficult position by our government because they were asked to decide between taking a holiday without insurance, postpone their trip or ask for a refund. The decisions the government made were last-minute and without consultation of multiple industries that service the travel and tourism sector. This meant that the insurance industry, like many other businesses, were being asked to react to huge changes with little notice so many could not provide cover in time for holidaymakers’ trips. The good news is that many insurers have adapted and travellers now have a range of Covid-19 travel insurance policies to choose from should they wish to go abroad to a destination on the recommended FCDO list. For those who would like to travel to a country with quarantine guidance there are insurance policies available, just remember to check the small print for all eventualities covered”
Further analysis of the data shows that countries such as Malta, France and The Netherlands, that were re-added to the FCDO advisory list on 14 August, welcomed 689,533 Brits collectively in August and September. In August travellers may have continued to travel uninsured to their chosen holiday destination despite the change in travel advice, with 159,000 travellers in September most likely visiting these popular holiday hotspots without travel insurance.
Amsterdam welcomed the highest density of travellers (262,514 passengers), while the South of France was the number one choice for Brits going across the Channel with 371,608 arrivals recorded. Departures from London airports accounted for nearly half of all 47,798 passengers who travelled to Malta.
Other destinations that came off the travel list on 24 September included Denmark which received 37,508 travellers, Iceland which had 1,694 visitors, and Switzerland was one of the other more popular destinations with 36,416 visitors. The Greek islands of Zakynthos and Mykonos also welcomed 38,412 visitors showing that once again a portion of these travellers will have visited these destinations without travel insurance.
During the pandemic people decided that they were goining to have a summer holiday, no matter what – and who can blame them? Many insurance brands stepped up and offered repatriation and cancellation cover at reasonable rates, but somehow that message was lost in translation for nearly two million consumers. Fear of becoming engaged in months of arguments over refunds, receipts, dealing with argumentative airlines etc meant that many travellers just took the risk and went anyway.
That no-insurance gamble shows how fragile the recovery in 2021 may be for travel insurers and brokers. It isn’t just a question of saying “thanks for buying, here’s your policy online and have fun”, because people can see now that governments and companies alike often renege on their promises and get away with it. The legal requirement to refund flights in 14 days, and the blatant disregard for the law by airlines, proves that point.
Travel insurers need to tell a different story post-Covid. And post-Brexit. The message must be that insurers are on your side, we sort the admin not you, we will pay out on parametric terms, immediately, via smartphone. We will not ask you to wait 2 hours in a call centre queue or request that you try to find original documents, receipts for lost gadgets etc. When it comes to pre-existing conditions there must be a way to carry over all that box ticking when you switch providers, a kind of biometric travel insurance passport if you like. Build it, because people will use it.
Travel insurance must be a smoother, less admin intensive and more data driven product than before the pandemic. Or it will lose its mainstream appeal.
Popular destinations for Brits by regional airports:
- Spain and the Balearic Islands were top of London’s airport departure lists with 373,161 passengers travelling through Stansted, London City, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, and Luton
- Those who travelled from Southend airport were most likely to go to Spain and the Balearic Islands, recording 18,336 passengers
- Scots were most likely to fly to The Netherlands, with 42,461 passengers recorded at Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh airports
- 8,314 passengers departed Belfast for the Spain and Balearic Islands
- Birmingham and East Midlands airports’ number one departure destination was Spain and the Balearics with 86,089 travellers passing through
- Total number of departures from Cardiff were low, compared to other regional airports, with Spain and the Balearic Islands topping the list at 3,967 passengers
- Liverpool saw 27,146 passengers depart for Spain and the Balearic Islands, more than three times the numbers of travellers who went to France
- More than double the number of travellers went to Spain and the Balearic Islands (721,598) over The Netherlands which recorded 261,924 passengers
- Spain and the Balearics (10,944 passengers), plus The Netherlands (9,601 passengers) were the popular choices for those travelling from Newcastle
- Those travelling further abroad to Jamaica were seen departing from London, with 5,419 passengers recorded from Stansted, Gatwick, Heathrow and Luton
- Manchester saw 4,993 passengers depart for Zakynthos, which was more than any other airport in the UK
Medical Travel Compared works with more than 30 specialist insurance providers to help travellers compare the best deals from providers offering travel cover for those with pre-existing medical conditions.
For more information visit www.medicaltravelcompared.co.uk