After police found bomb-making items during a Sydney raid recently, Sydney airport has ramped up security like never before – but is it causing passengers to miss their flights? And, more importantly, will they be covered by their travel insurance if they do?
In late July, authorities arrested four men after five properties were raided in New South Wales – and believed the group was planning a terrorist attack, using an “improvised device” to target an Etihad flight out of Sydney.
Because of this dire situation, the beginning of August saw long queues snaked outside Sydney airport as travellers were subjected to extended security screenings. The increased security checks also impacted anyone travelling from other major Aussie capital cities.
So with airport security expected to clamp down further over the next few weeks (after authorities realised just how close the plot came to being successfully carried out), will travellers who don’t foresee the extra delays be covered if they miss their flights?
Would travel insurance cover passengers for a missed flight due to enhanced security measures?
Longer security screenings mean a longer wait time until you can get on a flight – but many travellers may not realise how long they’ll be waiting until it’s too late.
This was a key issue when airlines last week urged passengers to arrive an extra hour earlier, but weren’t equipped to process that many people when they actually showed up.
So will your travel insurance policy cover you as a result of the heightened security measures at Australian airports?
The answer, as is often the case with travel insurance matters, depends on the particular set of circumstances facing customers.
Director of Comparetravelinsurance.com.au, Natalie Ball, said travellers should be aware of any extra delays before they travel.
“Whether travellers will be covered for delays due to the increased security measures is a complex matter as far as travel insurance goes.
“Depending upon your policy and any general exclusions relating to travel disruptions, cancellations and terrorism, you may have cause to claim,” she said.
“However, our overarching message at this time is to prepare for delays and follow your airline’s advice prior to making alternative arrangements.”
Strict security measures for domestic travellers
Even though police caught the terror perpetrators before a bomb made it onto a plane, the threat alone may have lasting consequences for domestic travellers across Australia.
The new proposed security measures will reintroduce the liquid and aerosols ban on domestic flights along with stricter identification methods. Passengers without valid boarding passes will not be allowed past security either.
This also means that new airport security measures won’t fall under traditional travel insurance cover.
“As it stands, travel insurance would not usually cover for increased security restrictions or for events that have already hit the mass media,” Ball said.
“Customers who have experienced issues prior to widespread news of these security measures may have provision to claim but it will depend on their specific situation.”
Despite the added inconvenience, Ball cautioned travellers not to disregard any issued protocols.
“Travellers have been advised to arrive at the airport two to three-hours prior to their flights for their own protection and failure to do so could affect your travel insurance claim.
“Passenger safety will be at the top of the agenda for the immediate future and any travel advisories issued from your airline should be strongly adhered to.”
What are travellers entitled to when there’s a flight delay?
If a flight delay is within the airline’s control (due to mechanical or crewing issues) your airline will be obligated to either book you on another flight as soon as space is available or offer you a refund.
However, Aussie airlines are not necessarily obligated to account for the care of delayed customers. Luckily some airlines, like Virgin and Qantas, will provide reasonable meal and accommodation costs until travellers reach their final destination.