24 Apr

ABTA says big increase in medical costs abroad makes travel insurance even more essential

ABTA – The Travel Association is reminding customers travelling overseas to take out travel insurance as soon as they book their trip, after data shows the medical costs travellers without insurance could face have risen substantially since 2019.

People requiring an air ambulance will now find that the cost of being flown safely home on a long haul flight will now cost more than twice the amounts charged in 2019.

In some instances customers who have fallen seriously ill or had a major accident will need to be flown home in an air ambulance, with the necessary high quality medical assistance. In 2019, an air ambulance from the European Union back to the United Kingdom cost between €15,000-20,000 - this rose in 2023 to between €25,000 and 30,000. Worldwide costs are even higher, rising in 2019 from €35,000-40,000 to in 2023 €75,000-85,000*, more than doubling.

These air ambulance and other medical costs should be covered by a comprehensive travel insurance policy. 

Customers may sometimes rely solely on the General Health Insurance Card (GHIC) , which allows UK citizens access to state medical care in the EU and a handful of other destinations. However, not all of these services are provided free of charge and air ambulance costs are not covered by GHIC, nor is the UK government under any obligation to cover any medical costs. This means that if you don’t have travel insurance, then you are liable to pay the full costs yourself, along with any other medical treatment.

ABTA is encouraging people to take out travel insurance as soon as they book their trip – that way you are covered straight away, including if you have to cancel for an unforeseen reason, like illness.

It is also important to check that any activities you plan to do are covered by the policy and specialist insurance for activities such as winter sports is purchased. Customers should also always declare any pre-existing medical conditions at the time of taking out the insurance policy or risk invalidating their cover.

Graeme Buck, ABTA’s Director of Communications, said: 

“Every year we see very sad stories of uninsured people who have fallen ill or had an accident whilst overseas and are running up large medical bills. 

“They often resort to setting up a Go Fund Me page or similar, but they will now find they need to raise substantially more money, with air ambulance and other medical costs having gone through the roof.

“It is simply not worth the risk of financial ruin, simply to save a few pounds, so always take out travel insurance at the time of booking your holiday or other travel arrangements.”

Jennifer Anderson, Director for Consular & Crisis, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said:

“Travelling without insurance can be expensive and distressing if things do go wrong when you are abroad. 

“The good news is that purchasing the right travel insurance does not take long and could save you a lot of money and stress. 

“I encourage anyone booking travel to make sure your travel insurance covers the places you visit, the duration of your visit and any planned activities and do disclose any medical conditions so your cover remains valid.”

The Air Ambulance costs were provided by AXA Assistance UK Ltd

*Approximates to @£65,000--£74,000 at an average exchange rate of €1 £0.87 in 2023

Notes to editors

ABTA is a trade association for UK travel agents, tour operators and the wider travel industry. We’re the largest travel trade body, with over 4,600 travel brands in membership who have a combined pre-pandemic annual UK turnover of £40 billion. We work closely with our members to help raise and maintain standards and build a more sustainable travel industry, and provide travellers with advice, guidance and support.

Our members sign up to a code of conduct and commit to agreed service standards and fair trading. When you need clear travel information, and accurate and impartial advice relating to your trip, we’re here for you. When you book with an ABTA member, reliable advice comes as standard. This means that booking with our members brings peace of mind.

All this together means we help you travel with confidence. www.abta.com