The value of buying travel insurance as early as possible is highlighted after figures show a big jump in cancellation claims last year.

The travel insurance industry paid out claims worth £385 million in 2017, the highest figure since £455 million was awarded during a year of disruption caused by the Icelandic ash cloud in 2010.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said the 2017 increase reflected a significant rise in cancellation claims due to airline disruption, bad weather at home and abroad, and the rising cost of the average family holiday.

The total number of travel insurance claims also increased by 30,000 year-on-year to 510,000, amounting to one case every minute of the year.

Medical costs

Medical expenses again accounted for the bulk of the claims expenditure, with 159,000 travellers requiring treatment costing insurers around £201 million.

One Briton needed £90,000 of treatment for a fractured rib and punctured lung, whilst another required a £20,000 payout to treat a blocked intestine. Even a smaller injury, such as damage to a knee ligament, cost £3,800 to treat.

Medical expenses far outweigh non-medical claims, with the ABI pointing out that the average medical bill of £812 for a millennium traveller was three times more expensive than their other claims.

Cancelled holidays

The £145 million paid out on 174,000 claims for cancelled holidays was up £15 million from the 159,000 seen in 2016. There were also 86,000 people who received £17 million worth of support for baggage being delayed or money lost whilst travelling.

The spike in the number of claims for cancelled holidays reinforces the industry message that consumers should not wait until the last minute to buy travel insurance.

Charlie Campbell, the ABI’s policy adviser for travel, said: Medical expenses can often cost tens of thousands of pounds, whilst the large increase in cancellation claims shows just how important it is to purchase your cover as early as possible.

“Our question to consumers is: can you afford to not have travel insurance?”

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