Egypt balloon tragedy

Policy is clear hot-air balloon flights are not covered: insurance company

Insurance company refutes relatives' claims that clauses in victims' contracts were vague

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 5:29am

A top executive of an insurance company that has refused to compensate the deaths of six Hongkongers in Egypt claimed yesterday that their policies clearly stated hot-air balloon flights would not be covered.

China Merchants Group vice-president Li Yinquan disputed relatives' claims that exclusion clauses were not clear. "This is precisely documented in text … It is clearly stated in the insurance contract," he said.

In a copy of one of the China Merchant insurance policies seen by the South China Morning Post, point (j) in the list of exclusions states: "Motorcycling, big-game hunting, riding or driving in any kind of race, professional sporting games, aerial activities other than parachuting, and air travel (other than as a passenger in a properly licensed power-driven aircraft)."

Li said the company had already paid to send the six bodies home to Hong Kong - reportedly at HK$120,000 per body - despite having no obligation to do so.

Relatives of some of the six covered by China Merchants are pressing for compensation and have raised questions about loopholes in its policies, but Li did not spell out how the company would respond to the demands.

"We will discuss the matter with related parties seriously and handle it with care," he said.

Roy Cheung Wai-leung, chairman of the Insurance Practitioners General Union, said the six inadequately insured victims had spent HK$160 each on the policy. For just HK$50 more, they would have been covered for hot-air balloons, skiing and even terrorist attacks.

The three other Hongkongers who died were fully covered by insurance bought through the tour operator Kuoni.

"The government should standardise insurance products," said Cheung. "Only when it tightens trade regulations will consumers be protected."

Instead of buying a random package online, he said, travellers should seek advice from proper agents and make sure the cover tied in with their itineraries.

The son of deceased couple, Ho Oi-ming and Tang Yuk-ling, insured by China Merchants said on Tuesday: "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."