Muscat: While relatives grieve and the world ponders over the mystery shrouding the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the tragedy is having a subtle effect on Oman travellers.
For many who live and work in Oman jumping on a flight for business, or to visit loved ones back home, has been a regular occurrence.
But, until now many had not even considered travel insurance but now MH370, and her 'missing' 239 passengers, is focusing travellers minds.
"Travellers to south Asian countries don't like to buy aviation accident insurance cover. But they may start thinking from now on as things are changing," said Sri Lankan Airlines Manager, Oman, Lakshman Weerasooriya.
While travel insurance schemes are primarily for emergency medical cover, they also offer legal assistance in case of redress, advance of bail bond, cancellation or curtailment, delayed departure after 12 hours, delayed baggage, personal baggage and personal money, loss of passport and personal accidents.
"Some of them even cover terrorism and adventure sport extension," an insurance agent based in Muscat said.
For example, in case of a plane crash, insurance companies in Oman, offer up to $1,000,000 to "platinum" insurance policy holders against a premium of OMR17 that is valid up to seven days and $500,000 to "gold" with premium of OMR9 for a visit to Malaysia from where the MH 370 flight took off. For family, this will go up to OMR37 for platinum and OMR20 for gold.
In case a flight is hijacked, there is a distress allowance which is paid every hour. The payout for "platinum" policy is $250 per hour up to $10,000. For "gold" and "silver" policies, this is not covered.
"I did not consider buying insurance every time I flew, but next time I will as the MH 370 case has alerted me to the risk," said Mohamed Al Balushi, who flies a couple of times every month.
"I think the disappearance of MH 370 is a wake-up call that reminds us that we need to take adequate cover and ensure that in case something happens to us, our families are adequately compensated," he added.
Country Manager of national carrier of India, Air India, Amaresh Chowdhury, said while insurance coverage is mandatory for travellers to Canada, the United States and a few other countries, passengers to South-East and West Asia rarely buy travel insurance in Muscat.
"This amount is paid extra apart from the ticket cost to Malaysia or the destination where you are heading. It is of great help and comes to rescue if anything goes wrong," he said.
Riyaz Kuttery, general manager — Oman, Jet Airways, said that the trend is now that only the upper middle class and the business class travellers buy these insurance teasers.
"But it remains to be seen whether it is followed by everyone," he said.
Insurance companies say that most of the travel insurance policies do not cover death or disability due to terrorist activities as an automatic choice.
"However, this extension is available if requested for an additional premium," they said. Here, the terrorism extension that the insurance companies offer is like a teaser cover.
"The main protection has to come from your own policy," an insurance agent said.
According to travel agents and airlines, four to five in 10 international passengers from Muscat travel to South East Asia, either on leisure or business or for a visit home, with Thailand being the number one destination followed by Malaysia and Singapore.
"Fliers are scared. Everyone is, actually. Unless the mystery over flight MH370 is resolved and we get a rational explanation, the sense of unease will remain," a travel agent said.
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