Alpenverein Worldwide Service (AWS) providing Annual Rescue and Repatriation Insurance

Mountain Rescue / Search, and Mountain Rescue Insurance

In many countries of the world, you will need to pay to be rescued from any mountain situation. This could be expensive. If helicopters are involved (which is typical in Alpine countries), the bill could be very significant.  For this reason you should always consider taking out mountain rescue insurance before venturing into the mountains – even if you are only walking.  The typical travel insurance policy may exclude mountain rescue.

In the UK, mountain rescue and search is free of charge, likewise if a helicopter is used.  Such rescue is co-ordinated by the police and typically involves volunteer Mountain Rescue Team(s), although in some cases RAF Mountain Rescue Teams will assist. If you benefit from this service you could consider making a donation to the relevant volunteer team(s).

Alpenverein Worldwide Service (AWS) providing Annual Rescue and Repatriation Insurance

All current members are covered by the AWS rescue and repatriation service during their membership year.  Liability and Legal Expenses insurance is also included.

The ÖAV insurance policies are provided by Austrian companies and governed by Austrian law. For details of cover provided by AWS please click the link below.

Cover is primarily for mountain rescue, it is NOT comprehensive travel insurance. You should read the AWS insurance document carefully to find out whether you need to take out additional insurance to meet all your requirements.

If you have any queries please contact KNOX Versicherungsmanagement GmbH as explained in the AWS document.  The AAC(UK) Office is not able to answer questions which seek interpretation of the insurance cover.

  • Insurance cover is provided for the first 8 weeks of any trip.
  • Cover is provided for a wide range of activity types, but there are some exceptions – and some limits applying to mountain bike tours. See the AWS document for a precise definition.
  • Rescue costs for expeditions in the Arctic, Antarctica and Greenland are not covered.  See the AWS document for a precise definition.
  • Liability insurance cover extends to all of Europe, as defined in the AWS document.
  • Prior to repatriation, transfer, in-patient medical treatment abroad or transport within the country of permanent residence (but not prior to rescue), it is absolutely imperative that contact be made with Europ Assistance (otherwise a maximum of only EUR 750 will be reimbursed).  Have your membership number to hand, before phoning. Europ Assistance will check that your membership is current.  If you do not have your membership number, inform Europ Assistance that you are a member of Sektion Britannia.  This will speed up validation of your insurance cover.
    To contact Europ Assistance: Phone: +43/1/253 3798, Fax: +43/1/313 89 1304, Email: aws@alpenverein.at
  • The current AWS document is described as “Edition 2017/2018”.  Nevertheless, there will be a new edition effective from 1 January 2018, with some changes to the insurance cover etc.  The new edition is available below, but will not be effective until 01/01/2018.  We cannot be sure when the hard copy will become available, but the Office will endeavour to supply it to you once it is available, by email if you have provided an email address, otherwise by post.  Please read the New AWS (01.01.2018 edition) Insurance document  – in ENGLISH (not effective until 01/01/2018) listed below or click on the link.

Purchasing Single Trip Protection Cover (Extension for Single Trips)

It is also possible to purchase the Alpenverein Premium Single Trip Cover if your trip is more than 8 weeks long or if you will be going above 6000m. Such an extension only applies to a single trip, as opposed to the year long AWS cover provided to all members.  It is only available to current members who permanently reside within Europe (click to see which countries are covered) Details are given below.  This separate insurance must be purchased before your trip commences and must apply to the whole of your planned trip.  Premiums are payable directly to KNOX.

KNOX  Tel:  Austria +43 (0) 512 238 300.  Or email them at: AV-service@knox.co.at They speak fluent English.

The following documents are in Portable Document Format (PDF) and may be printed. If you do not have a PDF Reader installed on your computer you may download one free of charge.

AWS 2017/2018 Insurance document – In ENGLISH

New AWS (01.01.2018 edition) Insurance document  – in ENGLISH (not effective until 01/01/2018)

KNOX Alpenverein Premium Single Trip Cover – In ENGLISH

Claim Form

In the event of needing a Claim Form, click on the links below.  Instructions for completing the form are also included:

Claim Form – for rescue, repatriation and medical treatment costs – In ENGLISH

Claim Form – for third party liability – In ENGLISH

Claim Form – for legal expenses – In ENGLISH

What is the procedure in the event of rescue?

Because rescue is urgent, you must organise it yourself locally without contacting Europ Assistance, who neither gets involved with payment guarantees either before or during a rescue operation, nor gets involved in any decision as to the necessity for a rescue. Rescue operations are covered up to a maximum stated in the AWS document. Wherever possible the insurance company (Generali Versicherungen AG) will establish the facts justifying the rescue as quickly as possible and pay them directly; in other cases you might need to pay them yourself initially and then seek re-imbursement from Generali Versicherungen AG Claims Form link.  Study Paragraph 1 of the AWS document for full rescue terms and conditions, which this explanation does not supplant. The phone numbers for emergency services vary from country to country, and you should find these out yourself locally.  The phone number for Europ Assistance is printed on the membership card (in small print), and given earlier above.

The telephone number on your ÖAV membership card is NOT an emergency number for alerting the mountain rescue services.  So before your visit to the mountains, you do need to find out the contact details for the mountain rescue services in the area you are going to.

For alpine rescue in Austria, the emergency number is 140.  In Austria, 112 will put you through to the police instead. They may not be interested in your situation.  Each Austrian province (Land) has its own rescue arrangements, and you may be well advised to check with the local tourist office on arrival.

For other Alpine countries, 112 is the well-known number, but it is NOT necessarily correct in all areas.  Do your research before travel, or on first arrival.  Outside Europe, the same applies.

[There is a list of numbers at https://www.thebmc.co.uk/Handlers/DownloadHandler.ashx?id=1066, but this dates back to June 2013].

If the mobile phone signal is weak, a text (aka SMS) message might get through, when a voice call will not.

Read our members Rescue experiences.

Alpine Worldwide Service to the Rescue

by Gerry Becker:

In March my ski touring holiday came to an abrupt end with my helicopter evacuation from the Neue Prager Hut (2796m) in the Hohe Tauern to the hospital in Lienz where I was diagnosed with pneumonia and spent two nights as an inpatient.  Interestingly, even though I am a US citizen resident in the US, neither the helicopter company nor the hospital asked for payment or a credit card number, nor did they seem interested in my Alpenverein membership .  Both indicated that they would just send an invoice to me in the US. Either the Austrians are very trusting or they have an agreement with Arnold Schwarzenegger to put the squeeze on deadbeats in the US.

The invoice for the helicopter arrived with a cover letter stating that, because I was not an EU citizen or resident, EU tariffs would not apply.  This was a polite way of saying the sky is the limit with respect to what we are going to charge.  Perhaps this is what awaits UK members post-Brexit!  The actual flight time from the hut to the hospital was 13 minutes but the invoice charged for 47 minutes which was the time from engine start at the helicopter base, flight to the hut, then to the hospital and back to the base and engine shutdown.  This was charged at a rate of 90 EUR per minute plus a base rate of 400 EUR and a medical charge of 500 EUR for an invoice total of 5100 EUR.  The hospital bill for two days was only 1700 EUR.

Per the instructions from KNOX Versicherungsmanagement I posted my claim form and helicopter invoice to KNOX who sent it on to Generali Insurance.  They “settled” the invoice (amount unknown) within two days of receipt.   With respect to the hospital invoice, KNOX/Generali required that the invoice first be submitted to my US insurance to determine what benefits they might pay.  My US insurer required me to pay the hospital and then submit a claim.  Given that my US insurance is a high deductible (excess) plan no benefits were payable and I submitted the claim denial and invoice to KNOX/Generali.  Once again Generali paid the invoice within two days of receipt but, unfortunately, they mistakenly paid the hospital.  As soon as I notified KNOX, the error was corrected within 24 hours and the full reimbursement appeared in my bank account.

I was very impressed with the speed with which my two claims were processed.  A far cry from the weeks or months this type of thing takes in the US.  Kudos to the Alpenverein Worldwide Service.  Well worth the price.


Himalayan Rescue

by Brian Jackson:

This will now be my fifth year as a member of the Austrian Alpine Club.  During this time, I have attempted to climb 5 first ascents in the Nepalese Himalayas and have been successful on 4 of these.  Each time on these expeditions, I have bought the AAC single trip premium rescue insurance, available only to AAC members, which covers me for mountaineering expeditions that are not on the standard trekking routes.  Previously unclimbed peaks fall within this remit.  On each of these expeditions, I have encouraged all the other expedition members to join the AAC and book the same insurance which they have all done.  The insurance cost differs if the peak is below or above 6,000m and is great value for the outlay and an essential part of any expedition.

Until November 2016, no members of our expeditions have ever had the need to call upon the AAC to use this insurance. However, on our attempt in November 2016 to make a first ascent on the unclimbed peak, Karbu Ri (6,010m), we had 3 people who got altitude illnesses at different times during the attempt to reach the summit.  Unfortunately, out of the 13 in our team, two people got HAPE and one got HACE.  The difficulty was that the walk in to both Base Camp and Advanced Base Camp was on a very long glacial moraine with a gradually increasing gradient which made it extremely dangerous to attempt to walk out in order to lose height quickly.  It would take hours just to lose a few hundred meters so the decision was taken to evacuate each person by helicopter straight back to Kathmandu.  We used our satellite telephone to contact our ground handlers in Kathmandu, HimEx Nepal, who sorted out the helicopter rescues. As soon as each person was in Kathmandu, they were told to make contact with the AAC to talk through both the necessary rescue and hospital costs.  The Tyrol Air staff on the end of the emergency number could not have been more helpful or understanding to each person and reassured them that the rescue would be covered.  They only needed to get a copy of the correct paperwork for both the helicopter flight and hospital costs and they would be reimbursed.  One of the climbers actually had the money in his bank account before he even got home on the next available flight to the UK. When it was required in an emergency, Tyrol Air were there to help and I cannot recommend them enough to all as their first port of call for all expedition insurance needs.


 

[Updated 12 December 2017]

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