Does travel insurance cover turbulence? Expert weighs in after Singapore Airlines tragedy

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On Tuesday, Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 made global headlines after severe turbulence caused it to  plunge 1,800 metres (6,000 feet) in a few minutes – killing one passenger and injuring dozens more.

Due to the injuries the London-Singapore flight was diverted to Bangkok where it landed yesterday afternoon.

Whilst deaths caused by turbulence are extremely rare on international scheduled flights, severe injuries during turbulence are not uncommon.

So how does travel insurance work in this instance and what can agents do to aid their clients affected by extreme turbulence? Travel Weekly spoke to Natalie Ball managing director of to find out.

Natalie Ball managing director of

Natalie Ball managing director of

Would travel insurance usually cover an event like turbulence on the Singapore Airlines flight?

Yes, this type of unforeseen event is exactly what travel insurance is designed for. Whether you are injured on land or in the air, travel insurance would likely cover any necessary medical treatment you require overseas, as well as any additional expenses you incur as a result.

Would trip disruption costs be covered (i.e. cost of having to stay in Thailand)?

Passengers unexpectedly delayed in Thailand would likely receive compensation from the airline. Travel insurance would reimburse you for any additional out-of-pocket expenses incurred, such as meals, accommodation, and new flights that were not covered by the airline.

Who should be the first port of call, the travel agent, insurer or airline?

If you need to change your travel arrangements, you should first contact your airline or travel agent for assistance. In this scenario, Singapore Airlines are more than likely to arrange new flights for their customers. However, should you need to make any upfront payments, in most cases you can make the rearrangements yourself and then submit your claim to your insurer for reimbursement. Most travel insurers state that you should take all reasonable steps to minimise and reduce the cost of the claim and provide all supporting documentation of the event and expenses incurred.

Of course, in the event of serious injury, seek medical attention immediately and contact your insurer as soon as practicable if you’re hospitalised overseas. Your insurer will often guarantee payments directly with the hospital so that you don’t need to worry about mounting medical bills.

If Singapore Airlines are already compensating you for any medical expenses, accommodation and/or meals, you would be unable to make a secondary claim through your travel insurance.

What would you need for a smooth claim?

To ensure a smooth claims process, you will need to submit all relevant supporting documentation to your travel insurer. Whether you’re claiming for medical treatment or additional travel and accommodation expenses, make sure you keep any receipts, medical certificates, and other relevant documentation. This includes a letter from the airline outlining any compensation, refunds or credits that you’ll receive. Additionally, you should have proof of your original, pre-paid travel arrangements along with a copy of your passport.

Being prepared before submitting your claim usually means it will be assessed and processed within 10 business days. Drip-feeding documents will usually result in delays.

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