Older travellers are more active these days. We’re hiking, cycling and skiing into our sixties, seventies and eighties. And the insurance industry doesn’t like it one bit.
Richard Belson, 65, wrote to me recently. He is a keen cross-country skier, and says: “I am an active traveller and getting travel insurance is a pain. The insurance companies need to realise that our generation is often fit, active and healthy, with the time and money to do interesting things.”
Richard is insured with Hiscox, whose travel policy is available only to those aged up to 69.
Age restrictions are commonplace in travel insurance. Axa has a limit of 75 on its multitrip policy; Bupa’s is 79.
There are often additional restrictions on winter sports. Co-operative’s standard policy is available up to 79, but it only offers winter-sports cover up to 65. Staysure only offers winter-sports cover up to 70.
Cross-country skiing is not the only activity Richard has trouble finding cover for. “I enjoy sea kayaking in the Arctic; it is an amazing activity,” he says. “Try getting a major company to say yes to that.
“At our age, we have the experience and skills of many years, and we know our limits. So, I suggest that we are a safer risk than younger people who lack both, and have the bravado of youth.”
The insurance industry argues that older people make more claims — three times more when over 65 than at 35. Claims are higher, too. As a result, most insurers have age caps, and older travellers must make do with more expensive single-trip policies or go to a specialist broker, particularly if they want to be active.
Incredibly, in this time of non-discrimination, age caps are perfectly legal. One aim of the Equality Act 2010 was to root out age discrimination in the provision of services; this part of the legislation came into force in 2012, but it specifically excludes financial services.
I think the insurance industry needs to be bold. The government is already increasing the state pension age in line with life expectancy. Why can’t insurers be required to do something similar?
In the meantime, active readers like Richard should look for specialist policies that cover older travellers. Try Free Spirit, Sportscover Direct or Holsure’s hazardous activity cover.
■ Robert Sim recently flew to Nova Scotia with the no-frills transatlantic carrier WestJet, but his bag was one of several offloaded because, according to cabin crew, the plane was “overloaded”. He was forced to buy essentials, then travel to the airport the next day to collect the delayed bag. He was offered a £50 credit note in compensation. After I called, Robert has now been offered almost double this, and in the form of cash.