Egypt balloon tragedy
Nine Hong Kong tourists were among 19 victims killed in Luxor, Egypt, when a hot-air balloon burst into flames as it was descending during a sightseeing tour on February 26, 2013. Only the Egyptian pilot and a Briton survived the early morning accident. The other victims, out of 20 passengers, were from France, Japan, Britain, Hungary and Egypt.
Egypt crash victims' kin demand answers from insurance company
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Family members of the Hongkongers who perished in last month's Egypt balloon crash have raised questions about loopholes in the insurance policies their loved ones bought.
Three relatives of the deceased, from the Ho and Siu families, spoke to the Hong Kong press for the first time yesterday, after the China Merchants Insurance Company refused to fork out compensation to six of the nine people who died.
The six whose deaths have been excluded from compensation had bought their policies at the Professional Teachers' Union (PTU), a third party selling insurance offered by Union Faith, an intermediary agent for China Merchants.
Apart from paying to bring the bodies home - reportedly at HK$120,000 per body - the insurer has refused to pay any other compensation.
Yesterday, the victims' relatives demanded answers from tour agency Kuoni and China Merchants as to why their family members would have boarded the balloon with policies that did not cover the activity.
"They claimed that aerial activities other than parachuting and 'air travel as a passenger in a properly licensed power-driven aircraft' are excluded from coverage," said Mr Ho, the son of deceased couple Ho Oi-ming and Tang Yuk-ling. "As a layman, how would I know what aerial activities or power-driven aircraft are? Hot-air balloons are powered and regulated by licences, too."
He questioned whether PTU staff had the expertise to help his parents select the most appropriate policy. Kuoni, which was aware of its tour members' policies, should also have reminded them of the risks, he said.
Eric Lee Wai-kai, PTU's welfare department director, said about a dozen of their staff members were licensed insurance agents. In future, they would remind travellers to check their journey details before settling on their preferred policies, he said.
The relatives also questioned Kuoni as to why balloon operator Sky Cruise was chosen although one of its balloons nearly crashed into the Nile in 2011. But Kuoni was uncontactable yesterday.
Deceased Siu Chi-man's elder brother said he had demanded to see the Egypt tour guide to find out more about the crash, but Kuoni said the guide had been on his way back to the hotel at the time and did not witness the accident. It was unacceptable for the guide to have left the tourists during the excursion, the families said.
Roy Cheung Wai-leung, of the Insurance Practitioners General Union, said regulation and transparency of travel insurance packages should be improved.