Michelle White had booked a cruise, and travel insurance, for herself and her husband when disaster struck. Her father tragically passed away just before she was about to leave. White, of course, then cancelled her cruise to be with her grieving family. 

However, despite having insurance that covers cancellation in the case of the death of a family member, White was shocked to see she would not be covered because of a fine print exclusion. 

White voiced her disappointment on a cruise Facebook page: “I recently have just had to cancel a cruise due to the sudden death of our beloved father the day before. Our travel insurance has rejected our claim as dad was ‘over 85’, how disgusting and insensitive. 

“I mean what does that mean? They feel that if you’re over 85 then you’re not worth grieving or even caring about.

“Who would have imagined that if he was 84, then we would have been paid out.”

White says she’s since found out that many companies have this policy and wanted to alert others that the death of their loved ones may not always be covered. White’s insurance was with Allianz and took out their top comprehensive travel insurance.

“Looking now, a lot of other big travel insurance companies – you’d be surprised how many have the same practice. 

“I actually really believe this is a form of ageism.”

What do the experts say? 

Gary Ross Hunter, travel insurance expert at Finder says this is a common clause among travel insurers. 

“Quite a few insurers have this clause. They won’t cover you if a family member is over a certain age. In most cases, this is around 84 years old. I’ve personally never seen an insurer have a cap that is lower than this.”

Hunter says while coverage varies from insurer to insurer, you are more likely to be covered for deaths of elderly family members with comprehensive rather than standard travel insurance.

“The exclusion usually depends on the insurer, not the policy. A basic policy won’t usually cover you for costs related to a family member dying.”

Finder Travel insurance
Gary Ross Hunter, Finder

Hunter says another clause to be aware of is that if a family member has pre-existing conditions, their deaths will often be exempt from cancellation cover as well. 

“You also won’t be covered if you were aware of any pre-existing medical condition your family member had before the policy started. For example, if your parent has a heart condition and they pass away while you’re on holiday, travel insurance typically won’t cover you to come home early,” he said.

Reading the fine print

Situations like these emphasise the need to read the fine print, says Hunter, and some cover is better than none

“It can be really tedious reading through Product Disclosure Statements but you need to do it. If it’s very long and confusing, that’s a sign it may not be the best policy. You may want to look elsewhere.”

Finder has a comprehensive list of travel insurers and the maximum age of the relative for coverage. Insurers are split between offering a maximum age of 84 or extending coverage to all family deaths, regardless of age. 

However, all insurers remain consistent in not covering for pre-existing conditions of relatives. To be sure of what counts as a pre-existing condition, you’ll need to read the product disclosure statement of your chosen insurer. 

Essentially, to get cancellation coverage for a death in the family, the deceased person must meet the insurer’s definition of a relative, fit any age requirements imposed by the insurer and the death or illness must be unexpected. 

See Finder’s page for Travel Insurance for a death in the family here

Fellow cruisers reactions 

After White told her story on cruise Facebook groups, hundreds of comments flooded in with their reactions in response, the majority of which supported her cause and felt the clause was unfair. 

Cruiser Shauna Gibney wrote that she’d had a similar experience but Princess Cruises had helped her. 

“Sorry for your loss. We had the exact same thing happen to us last year. We were 7 days into a 21-night cruise when my husband’s father died. He was 86 and our insurance company refused to pay.

“Try contacting Princess and explaining the circumstances. They were incredibly generous and gave us around half the cost of the cruise back in credit which they certainly didn’t have to do.”

Cruiser Carol Laws wrote: “ Wow who would believe the insurance is no good if loved one is 85 years old and dies. It should cover because you are emotional and grieving the loss of a loved one important to you.

“When my Dad died at 80 I felt like the end of world has come. Really my world was rocked beyond belief.”

travel insurance
If you have an elderly relative, check the fine print before you sign up to your travel insurer.