The fire came at a time when complaints about car or motorcycle insurance hit a five-year high
By James Cowen
Any travellers who left their vehicles at Luton Airport this week will no doubt be very concerned about the fire that recently ripped through its multi-storey car park.
The blaze, which was caused by a diesel car, took hold just after 9.30pm on Tuesday (10 October 2023) and quickly spread throughout the building.
Fire crews battled with the flames throughout the evening and the early hours of the following day – while it is now under control, a lot of damage was unsurprisingly caused.
Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service highlighted that the blaze caused significant structural collapse, with vehicles also being impacted.
It is believed that up to 1,200 vehicles may have been in the car park when the fire broke out, meaning insurers are extremely likely to have their hands full with claims over the next few days.
LV= General Insurance, for example, said it was expecting around 200 of its customers to be impacted, while the ABI urged affected drivers to notify any claim to their motor insurer.
“Owners of vehicles caught up in this fire will naturally be very concerned,” the association said.
“Comprehensive and third-party fire and theft motor insurance policies will cover fire damage.”
This comes at a time when a service drive in the insurance market, centred around fair value, is more important than ever.
For example, the FCA’s Consumer Duty regulation, which came into force earlier this year (31 July 2023), requires insurance firms to review their products and services against a new standard of fairness.
However, earlier this year (14 September 2023), the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) revealed that complaints about car or motorcycle insurance hit a five-year high in the first three months of the financial year.
Data showed that 3,869 complaints were made between April and June 2023, up from 2,626 during the same period in 2019.
The FOS noted that part of the reason for this could be down to an increase of insurers delaying in paying out on claims.
A delay in settling claims is always going to be disconcerting to a customer – and following a major incident like the Luton Airport car park fire, insureds will be demanding a swift service and, quite rightly, that their policies are not negatively impacted.
Efforts are still ongoing to extinguish a serious fire at Luton Airport. We are continuing to protect surrounding airport infrastructure, vehicles and the Luton DART. For anyone whose travel plans may be affected, please refer to the advice being provided by London Luton Airport. pic.twitter.com/tNFo4hvRdX— Beds Fire and Rescue (@BedsFire) October 11, 2023
Crews have controlled and extinguished the fire at Luton Airport. Four crews and an aerial appliance remain at the scene. All flights are suspended until 3pm. If you have a flight leaving before 3pm, please do not travel. Please avoid the area owing to severe traffic delays. pic.twitter.com/ji5HR1Qmug— Beds Fire and Rescue (@BedsFire) October 11, 2023
The good news for consumers is that insurers have started to issue messages of support for those that have been affected.
For instance, LV= General Insurance said it would be waiving excesses, provide customers with transport in the short-term and promised no claims discounts would not be impacted as part of its support.
In addition, it will also look to settle claims before customers return to the UK and, once it’s safe to do so, a team from LV= will be onsite at Luton Airport to provide assistance to affected customers.
Stephen Linklater, claims director at Ageas UK, meanwhile, urged impacted customers to call its dedicated claims phoneline.
He added: ”For these customers, we’ll cover their journey back home – regardless of which airport they arrive at – and waive their policy excesses as well as the impact on their no claims discount for vehicles that have been totally lost or damaged.”
Hazel Johnson, UK general insurance director of home and motor claims at Aviva, also outlined what support the insurer would be providing.
“We are working with the authorities and emergency services and our priority is to provide whatever assistance we can to customers who may have been affected by the fire at Luton Airport,” she said.
”In the first instance, car insurance customers can call us for assistance or to report a claim. Due to the unusual circumstances of this event, we will be waiving excesses for customers whose cars have been affected by the terminal two car park fire and there will be no impact on their no claims discount.”
It is very encouraging to see firms acting this way following the Luton Airport car park fire, with these types of services likely to provide comfort for consumers during a period of uncertainty.
And it’s these types of timely reassuring services that, as JMG Group chief executive Nick Houghton said, insureds want when they are not sure about something, or things are not going in the way they like.
While the industry is under the spotlight, there is no doubt that companies, amid new regulations, are currently working very hard to measure, analyse and benchmark their performance across a number of different metrics.
As a result, the level of service insureds receive should go up, which should, in turn, reduce the number of complaints made about insurers.
His career began in 2019, when he joined a local north London newspaper after graduating from the University of Sheffield with a first-class honours degree in journalism.
Now working within the insurance sector, James has a particular focus on motor, M&A activity and financial reporting.View full Profile