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AROUND this time of year, complaints about travel insurance start flooding into the Financial Ombudsman Service - with cancellation claims topping the list.

No-go travellers have to meet strict guidelines before underwriters will pay out. But the red tape and expense can be too much for some.

Betty Naylor, aged 85, wrote to Action Desk after abandoning her claim in frustration.

She fell ill with blackouts and dizzy spells ahead of a four-day coach trip to Morecambe and the Lake District with husband Bill, 84. And with two days to go she cancelled.

Travel firm Alfa informed her they were keeping 90 per cent of the £478 cost. Her insurers Towergate Chapman Stevens asked for documents including a booking invoice, cancellation invoice, insurance certificate and medical certificate.

It was when her doctor asked for £20 to fill out a form she decided she didn’t need the hassle.

Betty, of Buck Wood View, Gleadless, said: “We couldn’t afford it as we had already lost nearly £500. We are pensioners and these charges are beyond belief. We won’t be having another holiday.”

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BETTY’S claim is set to be honoured after her insurers and GP surgery said they were willing to help after a little persuasion from The Star.

Penny Matthews of Towergate Chapman Stevens said she would contact the travel company directly for documents.

She said: “Most people accept that if they are going to cancel they have to have supporting documents. But we’re happy to help out on this occasion.”

Stella Crookes, manager of Gleadless Medical Centre, said they would forward Betty’s medical form directly to the insurance firm at her request.

The Financial Ombudsman Service received 2,431 travel insurance complaints last year. The six main areas for complaint:

Cancellation

Curtailment, when you have to cut short your holiday

Lost or delayed luggage and problems with damaged goods

Medical expenses or problems from a medical claim while away

Personal possessions claims – from cash and jewellery to passports and substantial losses

Disclosure – telling the insurance company about significant things like pre-existing medical conditions that could affect if your claim is paid.

The Ombudsman advises that travel insurance policies can vary considerably. Find a policy that works for you – cheaper isn’t necessarily better.

If you’re planning any adventure sports, such as bungee jumping or diving, check you’re covered under your policy.

If you’re going to be carrying valuable items check the limits that apply under your policy. If you are taking valuables, such as jewellery, money or electronic items, keep them secure. If the hotel has a safe, use it!

Think about when you want cover to start. You might want a policy in place in the lead-up to the holiday just in case something happens and you can’t go.