East Hartford, CT March 10, 2010 -- The snowstorms of February unleashed travel disruptions across the country that were reason enough to validate travel insurance as a must for travelers seeking protection against undue expenses from weather delays. There are new reasons, however, why airlines this winter have acted more quickly ahead of a predicted snowstorm’s arrival to cancel blocks of flights when bad weather is forecast to disrupt their flight schedule.
As reported last week by the New York Times, the Department of Transportation’s new three-hour tarmac delay rules, which took effect at the end of December, have put new pressure on airlines. They are required to return any aircraft that has not departed to return to the terminal within three hours of leaving the boarding gate or face stiff penalties. The three-hour delay rules, in addition to requiring each airline to provide adequate water and toilet facilities onboard for delayed passengers, carry a fine for each violation of up to $27,500 per passenger.
An airline’s fine is potentially more than $1 million for a planeload of as few as 50 passengers. The possible punishment motivates most airlines to avoid even the chance of a violation. Rather than risk giving up to other flights the precious boarding gates that their planes may not be able to re-occupy if a snowstorm closes a congested airport, airlines now take the precaution to cancel blocks of flights on stormy days.
The trouble may just begin for passengers whose flights are cancelled. Airlines in the past two years have reduced flight frequencies while paring back their schedules. The next flight to a destination may be tomorrow or, as the Times reported of two passengers, “four days from now.” While some, but not all, carriers may waive fees for passengers to rebook, the passengers’ delay expenses for meals and lodging are typically on their own. Additionally, passengers deciding to take an airline refund to rebook their trip for later travel dates may still be required to pay a higher airfare than the one for their original booking dates.
Travel Insured International, a leading third-party insurer, reminds travelers of the strong coverage against weather-related delays included in a comprehensive travel insurance plan, such as one from its Worldwide Trip Protector line of products.
- Trip Cancellation, allowing up to a full refund of the prepaid trip, is allowed when weather causes complete cessation of your common carrier’s service for 24 or more consecutive hours.
- Trip Delay, when you are delayed a minimum or either 6 or 12 consecutive hours, depending upon the selected plan, covers reimbursement of unused, prepaid land or sea costs, and for meals and accommodations up to $100 or $200 per insured per day, depending on the selected plan.
- Missed Connection coverage is offered in most plans when a delay of a minimum three hours or a minimum six hours, depending upon the plan selected, results in a missed cruise or tour departure. Reimbursement of up to $200, $500 or $750 per insured, depending upon the selected plan, covers transportation, hotel and meal expenses to rejoin the departed trip
- If your travel supplier cancels your trip, you are covered on most Travel Insured plans up to the cost of the ticket or reissue fee when you need to book alternative flights, except for a limit of $200 in reimbursement on the Worldwide Trip Protector Lite Expanded plan. You must have covered the entire cost of the trip, including airlfare.
Thanks to new DOT rules, passengers will not be trapped in an aircraft any more. Thanks to a good travel insurance plan, they can avoid being trapped in the airport terminal as well.