AXA talks about the latest big issue to hit travel insurers


The rising tide of ‘balcony jumper’ claims has susbsided so far this year as policyholders realise that they are not covered for injuries sustained from drunken or drug fuelled late night pranks that go horribly wrong.

AXA’s travel intermediary and partner underwriting manager David Vincent said he had received two claims so far this year compared to four or five last year, but he expected more in the coming months.

“We have had a relatively quiet patch in balcony jumpers,” he said.

“We have one almost every other month and we are getting into the busy season in claims terms so I would be amazed if we didn’t get a couple in the next two to three months.”

Vincent said the costs to the person involved could easily surpass £100,000 once medical expenses and air ambulance fees were factored in.

He said that AXA had added new wordings to its policies in order to exclude such events but there would always be some individuals who would test it out.

“I’m sure it seems a good giggle at the time but when you have fallen three floors and broken both legs and your back and then we turn around and say: ‘By the way, we’re not paying your £30,000 claim’,” he said.

“Some we do pay – one was a guy who demonstrated to us that he wasn’t actually larking about or doing anything he shouldn’t have been, he just got up and put his hand on the balcony, it gave way and he fell over it.

“We were happy to pay that claim. The ones we are not happy to pay are the drink and drug related ones at 3am when someone is trying to get into the swimming pool or climb up the drainpipe.”

Vincent said that AXA had stepped up its customer campaigns last year to educate people about the dangers of irresponsible activities such as planking and batting.

Another issue for insurers has been the rising costs of overseas medical insurance for their customers, he said, particularly in the US, where medical inflation is running in excess of 10% and climbing and a night in intensive care can cost more than $10,000.

Other hotspots, said Vincent, were the Caribbean and Mexico, where repatriation costs and subsequent treatment in other jurisdictions could run into the hundreds of thousands.

A big trend he has seen is an increasing number of staff from Gestitursa in Spanish hospitals and clinics who direct patients from the UK to private clinics if they have travel insurance rather than getting treated in a public ward under their European Health Insurance Card at a fraction of the cost.

On the fraud front, Vincent said that false baggage claims were the main types of fraud and despite running the relevant checks and continuing to question policy wordings, it was hard to prove that some such as those for phone thefts were fraudulent.

Vincent said that AXA’s top line growth in terms of premium was relatively flat with people deciding to stay at home or travel less due to the economy and policyholders taking out cover for more short haul European trips than long haul.