Travel insurance is a form of limited or special situation insurance that covers loss arising from a specific event. This could be flying in an airplane or riding in a train. The policies are based on the behavior of a group of individuals engaged in an activity and the likelihood that a loss will occur.
Travel insurance is rated based on the occurrence of a loss as it affects a group of common interest, such as airline passengers. This differs from individual coverage, which rates the risk of loss occurring based on the personal preferences and habits of the insured. It would be difficult to use individual underwriting standards such as age and health status to travel insurance since not everybody flies in an airplane.
Group insurance factors in the community experience of the group as a whole in order to access the probability that loss will occur. Community experience factors can include the number of air disasters in a given region, or in a given year, or by a given carrier. When assessing loss exposure on a group basis it is easy to discern certain trends and patterns regarding the chance of loss. Since air travel is deemed safe with air disasters occur very infrequently (roughly 1 in 2.5 million), the rates for travel insurance is very low.
If you accept that activities such as air travel are safe with a low probability of occurring, why the need to buy travel insurance? Insurance is about something not happening, as oppose to a loss occurring. Insurance provides a way to restore value in the event of a loss and for some, having the piece of mind that some benefit may be available may be important.
Travel insurance policies are typically issued in kiosks at an airport. It may also appear as a rider associated with a credit card or to a person’s property and casualty indemnity coverage. However it is purchase, the benefit provided is a low amount of coverage, maybe no more than $25,000 (although a few higher death benefit policies exist). This is done based on the community experience-rating factor that looks at the incident of death or dismemberment occurring based on the chance of an airline disaster.
How old you are, how physically fit you may be, whether you smoke or not, are all rating factors or variables that are not important to issuing travel insurance. None of those factors has an impact on a plane taking off and landing and the likelihood that a crash will occur. That the instances of plane crashes are so low suggests that very limited factors need to be considered when pricing travel insurance.
Insurance is based on a concept of risk transfer. This means that the individual pays a premium amount that insures that if something were to happen, the insurance will provide a benefit to compensate the policy’s beneficiary. The amount paid in premium is low relative to the potential benefit that is paid. The insurance company rates the potential for loss and prices its policy accordingly so that it is able to pay if that loss occurs. The higher probability that a loss can occur means a higher premium. Applying group underwriting principles to travel insurance helps provide a product that is low cost and pays a uniform benefit.