In recent years, several high-profile volcanic eruptions have caused flight disruptions, travel delays, and travel restrictions due to the risk of volcanic ash particles coming in contact with aircraft engines. In only a few cases, flights across were grounded well ahead of time and travelers had time to adjust their flights and/or make arrangements; everyone else had to scramble for alternate transportation or get new lodging and wait it out.
Travelers who purchased travel insurance fared better than others, of course. Let’s look at how travel insurance covers volcanoes.
Travel insurance coverage for volcanoes centers around the natural disaster coverage. Some, but not all, travel insurance plans give the insured the right to cancel their trip and get a refund if their trip must be cancelled due to a natural disaster like a volcano eruption. To know if your travel insurance plan covers volcanic eruption, start with the definitions section, which will look like this:
Then, check the coverage you need: cancellation, interruption, delay, etc. to see if ‘natural disasters’ is included in the covered reasons to make a claim. For example, many travel insurance plans allow a traveler to cancel their trip and make a claim if a natural disaster destroys their destination or when flights are cancelled for at least 24 hours.
If a volcano erupts after you’ve started your trip and you’re ordered to evacuate, trip interruption coverage will reimburse you for your remaining non-refundable trip costs (up to the plan limits) and give you extra cash to arrange for alternative flights or other transportation home.
In a different situation, i.e., flights are delayed and you can’t get to your travel destination, some travel insurance plans will pay for additional transportation and lodging costs if your flight is delayed due to a natural disaster. If you never left home, travel delay coverage won’t help you recover your pre-paid trip expenses unless the trip is later cancelled completely due to the volcanic eruption.
Travel insurance plans can only cover unknown events, so it’s important to buy your plan early – soon after your initial trip deposit – to have access to the most coverage for natural disasters like volcanic eruptions. Specifically, you have to have purchased your plan before the volcano erupts, not once you hear it’s predicted to happen on the news. At that point, it’s a known event and cannot be covered.
Expensive trips should be covered with ‘cancel for any reason’ if you’re worried about the potential for a volcanic eruption that might cause you to cancel.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.