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In early June my wife and I booked our honeymoon to Tanzania and Zanzibar, departing in September. The trip cost about £7,000 so we took out a platinum Admiral travel insurance policy starting on June 1.
Then in July my wife unexpectedly found out that she was pregnant. Those two countries have a high prevalence of malaria, which we understand is extremely dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn babies. We understand that pregnant women suffering from malaria are at increased risk of anaemia and miscarriage and their babies are at risk of stillbirth, prematurity, intrauterine growth retardation and low birth weight.
My wife sought medical advice on the matter from a specialist travel clinic and was advised not to travel to Tanzania and Zanzibar. Her private GP agreed.
Separately, the NHS website reads: “You are strongly advised to avoid travelling to areas where you may be at risk of malaria as infection in pregnancy can result in severe illness and a risk to both yourself and your foetus.”
On the basis of this advice we reluctantly decided to cancel the honeymoon we had so been looking forward to.
Unfortunately we were unable to get a refund from the travel agent. And even though our travel insurance would be void if we travelled against medical advice, Admiral has refused to accept our claim. This is because it disagrees with the medical professionals’ view that going to a malaria zone is a risk that pregnant women should not take.
Admiral’s response is that it would “cover us if something happened”. We find this absolutely abhorrent. Clearly we don’t want to take risks where my wife’s health and that of our unborn child are concerned. It is also merely a verbal “offer” and we would have no faith that this insurer would actually help us if we were to take such a risk.
My wife and I are left distraught by the situation. Despite significant evidence to show that its assertions are incorrect, Admiral has refused to reconsider.
– SS, London
I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this at a time when your wife should be keeping stress to a minimum. That Admiral appeared to be defying doctors’ advice by encouraging you to go on this trip seemed completely absurd. Pregnancy is a vulnerable time in one’s life and I can’t imagine any expectant parents in their right mind choosing to ignore the advice of doctors and the NHS and listen to that of a penny-pinching travel insurer instead.
It has also emerged that you are not alone in this situation. In fact, I believe your case may be part of a disturbing trend. A number of similar travel insurance cases involving various insurers have been submitted by pregnant women to the Financial Ombudsman Service, which has ended up ruling in their favour. In one complaint upheld by the ombudsman, expectant parents were advised by doctors not to travel to a country that is high-risk for the Zika virus, yet Admiral refused to pay for their cancelled holiday.
The ombudsman forced it to change its mind because their policy, like yours, would have been void had they travelled against doctors’ orders, leaving them in an impossible situation.
You make the good point that insurance companies are causing these women and their partners a significant amount of distress by refusing to pay out and ruining a period of time that should be enjoyable. You view this as unacceptable discrimination and think these insurers need to change their terms to better protect pregnant women. I completely agree.
Following my involvement you received a grovelling apology from Admiral, which insists that the health and safety of its customers “always comes first, particularly where pregnant women, babies or children are concerned”.
It said your claim was initially rejected because of several exclusions, which were detailed in its terms and conditions, relating to pregnancy and “disinclination” to travel due to contagious illnesses.
It maintains that the circumstances of your cancellation don’t technically constitute a covered ground for cancellation, but it now recognises that you are in a difficult position.
As a result it will now pay the claim on an “ex gratia” basis, so you will no longer be out of pocket for your cancelled honeymoon.
An Admiral spokesman said: “We’re extremely sorry for any inconvenience or upset that this has caused and hope that our offer to cover the cost of the holiday helps to bring some peace of mind.
“We would also like to take this opportunity to wish them congratulations and hope that all three of them get to enjoy the trip together at a later date.”
I’m pleased to have sorted this out for you and hope you are able to get some relaxation time in before your new arrival comes along. Best of luck with everything.