Where was all this snow when I was a kid growing up in the Washington DC area? I would have enjoyed snow a lot more back in those school days than I have appreciated the weather we travel professionals have dealt with this year! There are no snow days in the travel industry, just longer hours and more frustrated clients.
Usually I reserve this space for a topic related to selling travel insurance. This month, however, it is appropriate to address the most frequently asked question of the past few weeks. What is the coverage for all this snow? Even if your agency is not based in the Northeast or mid-Atlantic regions, you may have clients who were affected by these weather events. If you were lucky enough to avoid major client inconveniences, you may confront a similar situation from a hurricane, or even a simple thunderstorm, that delays their clients flights.
The Question of the Month in January touched on this subject, but I want to take a minute to expand on weather coverage.I received the following scenarios from an agent partner in New Jersey, and I think the best way to explain coverage is to use these as a guide. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, but the time frames and trip costs are accurate for reference purposes.
The Travel Scenario
Two couples - the Smiths and the Joneses - were flying to Ft. Lauderdale, FL from Newark, NJ to catch a cruise. They made the decision not to fly a day early and are booked on the 7 a.m. flight on Saturday, Feb. 27. The total per person trip cost is $1,400. For this example let us say that they are each 55 years old. Due to the storm that hit Newark on Thursday, Feb 25, and ended the following day, thousands of flights on Continental were cancelled.
On Friday Feb 26, the four travelers were informed by Continental that their flight was cancelled for Saturday. Despite checking all flights on multiple airlines from all the major New York and Philadelphia area airports, they could not be rescheduled on any flight that would get them to the ship in time for embarkation.
The gate agent was able to get them on flights to St Thomas (the first port of call) on Monday, March 1. The ship was scheduled to arrive in St Thomas on Tuesday, March 2. The clients were required to pay a $250 fee to change their airline tickets to St. Thomas.
In addition to the extra airfare, they also needed a hotel for one night at $250 per room in St. Thomas prior to boarding the cruise. Finally, they missed the first two days of the cruise due to missing the ship’s departure from Ft. Lauderdale.
The following answers are based on the clients having purchased Worldwide Trip Protector to provide the benefit levels.
Question #1: The Smith’s decided not to rush to St. Thomas. At that point could they have cancelled their cruise if they taken out your insurance policy?
The answer is yes as long as their initial airline delay was 24 consecutive hours. In this example the original departure time was February 27 at 7 a.m. If their airline could not accommodate them on a different flight departing before 7 a.m. on February 28, they would then be eligible for this coverage. The client must understand that if the airline can get them on a different flight to their destination departing within 24 hours, but it still means missing their embarkation, they are not eligible for trip cancellation. They would only have access to the Missed Connection coverage (only if there is a connection flight), after a three-hour delay, and Travel Delay coverage, after a six-hour delay, if they do not reach the 24-hour delay mark.
Question # 2: The Jones’ decided they wanted to catch up to the ship. What can the clients claim on their policy for reimbursement of their out-of-pocket expenses?
There are three pieces of the coverage that the clients can claim in this scenario:
- Trip Delay coverage would reimburse up to $200 per person per day with a maximum of $1,000 to cover hotel nights, meals, toiletries, and other essentials.
- Trip Interruption coverage, which took effect because the initial delay was longer then 24 consecutive hours, would reimburse them for the first two, “unused” days of the cruise, and / or the additional airfare to reach their destination. In this example the per-person trip cost is $1,400 for a seven-day trip, and we would divide the total trip cost by seven to determine the per-day amount of $200 per person per day which would be reimbursed to them.
- Missed Connection coverage would apply if the clients had a connecting flight instead of a direct flight. This benefit would reimburse them up to a maximum of $500 per person for additional airfare and change fees. For example, if the Smiths were originally scheduled to make a flight connection through Atlanta, instead of flying nonstop to Florida, this coverage would apply if the flight from Newark to Atlanta was delayed for at least three hours resulting in their missing the connecting flight in Atlanta. The missed connection forces them to fly from Atlanta to St. Thomas to catch up to their cruise. In this case, the clients are eligible for the Missed Connection coverage that reimburses them for additional airfare and/or change fees.
Question #3: What does your insurance company offer to clients to assist them with making travel changes en route due to trip delays?
We always recommend that clients work with the airline’s employees at the airport or their travel agent to coordinate their new flight arrangements. They can also take advantage of our 24-Hour Emergency Travel Assistance services included in every policy.
From the “No Question is Dumb” Mailbag – The Question of the Month:
Do you have a question about policy coverage or how to handle a specific situation? This is your opportunity to ask the travel insurance experts at Travel Insured. Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Question of the Month” in the subject line.
Q: Two friends have booked a cabin to share on a cruise. One of them, however, must cancel for a covered reason and the other, who still wants to take the trip, is faced with paying a single supplement as a result. What are her options?
A: One of the advantages of booking one of our policies is that the friend who is choosing to travel alone can claim for the single supplement. There are two rules to keep in mind: First, the person continuing the trip must have his or her own policy, even if the companion who is canceling does not. Second, the friend must be canceling for a covered reason under Trip Cancellation. If both these conditions are met, then the person being charged the single supplement will be able to claim for a reimbursement for that amount once he or she returns from the trip.
It is very important to remind your client not to claim for the single supplement until he or she returns from the trip. Should the traveler claim before leaving, and then have another covered loss occur during the trip, he or she will not be able to file a second claim. Once the first claim is filed the policy is no longer active, leaving the single traveler unprotected while traveling. Remind your client to wait until after the trip when he or she will be able to file a claim for any covered loss that happens during the trip, such as an emergency doctor’s visit or a Trip Delay expense. At the same time the traveler will still be able to claim for the single supplement.