Consumer complains about insurer's handling of claim after bad experience on flight

Travel Insurance Distress and inconvenience Up to £5,000

Raj suffered a stroke abroad and needed to be flown back to the UK. He contacted us to complain about the arrangements his insurer put into place for the flight home.

What happened

Raj was abroad visiting his son when he had a severe stroke. He suffered some paralysis, meaning it was difficult for him to sit up, eat and go to the toilet without support. The treating medical team recommended he be repatriated by air ambulance to ensure his comfort on the long flight.

The insurer arranged for Raj to be brought home on a budget airline flight without the assistance or the harness that had been recommended. As the flight was busy, it didn’t manage to get Raj’s partner on the same flight, and he travelled alone. He wasn’t able to feed himself, so he didn’t have a meal – and he had to ask the air steward to help him drink. He disembarked with the assistance of the steward, but no ongoing transport had been arranged as promised, so he was stranded at the airport and given his condition had difficulty making the arrangements to get home.

Raj complained that the experience had left him traumatised, and he had severe anxiety about travelling again. He explained that not being able to use the toilet or feed himself had been embarrassing and distressing. And having to unexpectedly arrange his own onward travel had also been an added stress.

What we said

The insurer defended how it had repatriated Raj in its response and didn’t offer compensation – so Raj asked us to review things.

We didn’t agree that using a budget airline was a fair method of repatriation in the circumstances – and saw evidence that an air ambulance could have been arranged in a matter of days. We thought the impact of this mistake had severe consequences for Raj.

He was in considerable discomfort for many hours and was left feeling vulnerable during the flight. On top of this he was put to a lot of inconvenience after he arrived at the airport. All of this was unnecessary and could have been avoided if the insurer handled the claim correctly.

We also recognised that there was a continuing impact on Raj. The trauma of what happened meant that he was now afraid to travel abroad and so was unable to visit his son. This was very upsetting for him and he was attempting counselling to help him get over the experience.

We were satisfied that the insurer’s decision to not follow the medical recommendation for repatriation had an extremely serious and lasting impact on Raj. So, we decided the insurer should pay him £2,000 in compensation.