Southland woman wins travel insurance battle after company had refused to pay

Travel insurance is supposed to cover you for the unexpected, right?

Well, as one Southland woman found out, sometimes a small claim can turn into a big battle about just what “unexpected” even means.

Leigh Buttar came to Fair Go in 2017, after her travel insurance claim with Cover-More was declined by the company.

She and her family had missed out on their holiday – a cruise around Australia and the Pacific – because high winds at Queenstown airport meant they couldn’t fly out to meet the boat in Brisbane.

Leigh put in an insurance claim, but was shocked to be told her request was turned down because she should have known the bad weather was coming.

“It was five days after I lodged the claim that I had my first letter of decline.”

Cover-More sent Leigh links to articles in the NZ Herald pointing to a spell of bad weather approaching the Otago region – the opposite side of the South Island to where Leigh lives.

“[I] watched the video and the weather report was for heavy rain and snow which wasn’t even why our flight was cancelled,” she said.

In fact, the article made no mention of any wind – which was what cancelled the family’s travel plans.

“I just thought it was a bit of a joke. I thought they were clawing at desperate measures,” said Leigh.

But even Fair Go couldn’t get this one solved, so Leigh took her case to the Insurance Ombudsman. 

It’s a free service, that can mediate claim disputes once they’ve reached a deadlock.

And this time, Leigh was successful.

“I was just really excited, and so pleased that I’d followed through and not given up,” she said.

Cover-More agreed to pay out Leigh’s claim of more than $3800.

“I was entitled to have some of that back, because I hadn’t done anything wrong.”

Cover-More says it respects the Ombudsman’s decision, and offered some travel advice to avoid any debate over weather predictions in the future. 

“We always advise travellers to buy their travel insurance when they book as it covers them for… any event that subsequently becomes an issue,” it said in a statement.

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Leigh Buttar thought she was covered when bad weather meant she missed her cruise from Brisbane. Source: Fair Go