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You buy travel insurance thinking that you will be covered for any mishaps, but does it really protect you in the time of need? The details are in the fine print as discovered by Cox and Kings Europe tourists even as C&K is giving its “customers” a rude brush-off
Cox and Kings' (C&K) European Whirl tour ended with a whirlwind for 32 passengers just before takeoff back home. After being robbed of valuables left in the bus (on insistence of the tour manager), C&K has given them a cold shoulder and the prospects of the insurance company paying them anything is zero. C&K's reasoning is that they are not responsible for loss of any baggage, valuables and personal effects of the passengers.
Read the first part of the story - Cox & Kings’ tourists robbed in Europe
What is unique in this case is that the passengers lost belongings by following the C&K tour manager's instructions and yet C&K does not believe that they have to take the responsibility. C&K asserts that "passengers should not leave any property in the coach while disembarking", but ironically the tour manager gave exact opposite directions during all the 10 days of the tour.
If the standard operating procedure was to make the passengers keep the baggage inside the coach during sightseeing, C&K should have had an understanding with bus operator/sub-contractor about them taking the responsibility of baggage. C&K should be able to get compensation from bus operator/sub-contractor to indemnify the huge loss to the 32 passengers. Did they get any report from bus operator and tour manager? Was any action taken? How about C&K taking interest to follow-up with the police station in Rome where a complaint has been made? Why is C&K shrugging off the case with a casual attitude?
What makes the case appalling is that all the passengers lost the carry-on baggage and not a small tourist bag, which people carry during sightseeing. According to YN Bhattacharya, a senior banker who along with his family had lost of around Rs2 lakh says, "Instead of going directly to the airport or giving the option to leave the baggage in the safety of hotel lockers which was hardly five miles from the airport and ample time on-hand, the C&K tour manager made the full tour to not only carry all the baggage in the bus but also made them keep it inside the bus with no option for passengers to sit inside the bus. All of them had to go to the mall, which was actually not mentioned in the itinerary." If this is true, it was clearly a trap, possibly involving the tour manager himself. What is the implication is all this for insurance?
While buying travel insurance, customers hardly know what is really covered. What is mentioned in the fine print is that the cover is for checked baggage with the airline and does not cover loss due to theft. Oriental Travel Insurance purchased through C&K only covers loss of checked baggage. One insurer who covers theft from vehicle which clearly states-"It excludes theft from a motor vehicle unless the property is securely locked in the boot and entry to such vehicle is gained by visible, violent and forcible means." Even if the travel insurance purchased through C&K had this clause it would not have helped as it was an inside job. There was no need for forced entry or tampering of the lock. The learning for travel insurance buyers is to not buy blindly. If certain situations are not covered, you have to be extra vigilant about protecting your assets in a foreign land.
One of the 32 passengers lost his passport, ticket and was stranded in Rome. C&K's terms and conditions (T&C) states following-"If you lose your passport, visa, tickets, etc, you may have to incur extra expenses, for which you alone shall be responsible." Moreover, the T&C of Oriental Travel Insurance covering loss of passport excludes following-"Loss or theft of passport left unattended by the insured person unless located in a locked hotel room or apartment and an appropriate sized safety deposit box was not available for use by the Insured Person." There is low chance of getting insurance reimbursement in this case.
Even small tour operators carry public liability and professional indemnity insurance to handle such situations. C&K, being a major player in this business for over 250 years, will surely protect itself for any liability as it would have an insurance cover. So, it is not as if C&K will have to pay from its pocket to reimburse the 32 passengers. The reluctance to entertain and empathise with the loss of its own customers shows horrible a shocking business attitude.
If the fight goes to courts, the tour operator may simply invoke their insurance to pay off any liability. It may eschew doing justice till the noose tightens around its neck.
Tour passengers have been trying to contact C&K by personal visits or emails, but without any success. YN Bhattacharya tried repeatedly to contact Pankaj Sethi, C&K co-coordinator for the tour, who did not pick up the call, but sent an SMS that he would call back later, which he never did. Another passenger G Elangovan's email was unanswered. After a reminder, there was general reply that C&K is looking into the issue. C&K was going to give a response to Moneylife by noon today, but there has been no response till the time we uploaded the article.