Does travel insurance cover a presidential vacation interruption?


Here’s a question you don’t get every day: What happens when the president of the United States interrupts your vacation? Who do you call?

Stephen Barrasso wants to know. So do I.

“My wife and I booked a trip with Vantage Travel to Cuba,” he says. “As a part of the itinerary, we were scheduled to be in Havana for four nights, staying at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. Coincidentally, President Obama was also going to stay at the Nacional. We were told that we could stay at the Nacional for one night and then would be moved to an all-inclusive resort three hours outside of Havana.”

That’s right. Barrasso was in Havana at the same time as the president’s historic visit. How exciting.

How … not exciting.

“While at the resort, we were told that Havana would be closed for us to return for sightseeing,” he recalls. ” Also mentioned was the possibility of the airport being closed, hindering our charter back to Miami. On virtually a moment’s notice, while driving out of the resort on a sightseeing venture, we were told by Vantage to go back to the resort, pack, and drive to the airport for a 9:30 p.m. charter back to Miami. Vantage said they would take care of getting air back to our home city.”

Well, that sounds more like an evacuation than a change of plans.

Barrasso and his party arrived in Miami late and were transported to a hotel. “I had to pay for the flight back to Boston and the hotel,” he says.

Related story:   Sorry, but we are consumer advocates, not magicians

Who should pay for his expenses? Sometimes, people do send a bill to the president, as a small town in Vermont did back in 2012 when it sent Barack Obama a $4,200 bill for extra police protection during a fundraiser. Technically, Barrasso could have billed the White House for the costs incurred from being booted from his hotel.


But wait, doesn’t he have insurance? Doesn’t insurance cover a trip interruption? And isn’t this a trip interruption?

Well, it turns out he had insurance through Allianz. Barrasso filed a claim. Denied. The reason?

Unfortunately, the denial of your claim was proper based on the terms of your insuring agreement.

As your insuring agreement indicated, this is a named perils travel insurance program, which means it covers only the specific situations, events and losses included in this document, and only under the conditions we describe.

Unfortunately, the cause of your interruption is not included among those reasons.

Our advocacy team thought there must be a mistake. His trip was definitely interrupted in a major way by an executive event. While it may not be a named reason, it should be. We asked Allianz to review the denial one more time.

I’m sorry that Mr. Barrasso was inconvenienced on his trip to Cuba. It does appear from the letter below from his travel supplier, that his trip was not interrupted due to a reason covered by his travel insurance policy. A change in itinerary would not be a circumstance that travel insurance covers.

Also, from the letter below, it appears that Mr. Barrasso was offered an alternative itinerary which he declined to accept and he did receive a refund for the missed days of his trip.

Ah-ha! Turns out there’s more to the story and Barrasso did receive something.

Why, then, are we writing about this? Because it’s so odd.

Yes, those are human teeth marks on my dog.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org.

  • sirwired

    “It’s not a named reason, but it should be”?

    That kind of defeats the purpose of a named perils policy. If they wanted to provide an “anything not your fault” policy, they’d do so (and price accordingly).

  • FQTVLR

    Good friends were down in Cuba at the same time and booked through a different tour company. They too were bounced from their hotel in Havana. They went to a beach resort for one night and then were taken to a B&B (Casa Particular) in Havana for the remainder of the scheduled time in Havana. No sightseeing was cancelled–but times were shifted around. Their charter back to the US was delayed–but due to technological issues (which they think was related to President Obama’s visit). I wonder why Vantage had so much difficulty coping when the other company did not?

  • MarkKelling

    What I am getting from the article is this was more an issue with the OP than the tour company. He didn’t like the changes, he went back to the states early, and he received a refund of the missed days. Nothing insurance would cover because he chose to terminate his trip early. It was not that the travel company didn’t offer him alternate activities due to the forced changes from the presidential visit.

  • Zann77

    If I had a trip planned, reservations nailed down and activities planned, and a super privileged individual, no matter who it was, came along and disrupted the entire trip, I wouldn’t be happy about it either. War, terrorism, and unexpected health issues aside, people have an expectation that plans they have made and paid for will proceed pretty much as they planned. Don’t know how the officials in charge of arranging the visits of heads of states should handle this issue, but stomping all over everyone else’s lives shouldn’t be an option.

    I suppose this sounds very curmudgeonish and unrealistic, but that was my first thought.

  • Michael__K

    That’s not what the article says:

    while driving out of the resort on a sightseeing venture, we were told by Vantage to go back to the resort, pack, and drive to the airport for a 9:30 p.m. charter back to Miami. Vantage said they would take care of getting air back to our home city.”

    So, first they were told Havana was “closed” for sightseeing…
    then they were sent to a resort 3 hours away for sightseeing…
    and even that portion of their trip was suddenly interrupted because they had to scramble to the airport on short notice to fly when the airport was open to them….

    And then they arrived in Miami LATE and had to pay for a hotel and a new flight.

    If they got refunded for the missed days in Havana that’s great, but they also deserve a refund for (at least) the hotel night in Miami and their new flight home.

  • Michael__K

    Problem is,many commenters and travel agents touting travel insurance in this space routinely make statements such as “if you can’t afford to lose any of your trip investment you can’t afford not to insure it”

    The implication of such statements is that one’s investment is safe and protected from anything not their fault. When it’s pointed out that insurance only covers Named Perils, those same folks often insist that insurance covers 95% or more the problems. If that were really true, then the price tag of an Open Perils policy shouldn’t be too much more than 5% higher….

  • A lot of the complaints aired here center on scammy travel insurance policies, but isn’t Allianz supposed to be one of the good guys? This sort of trip interruption should by all rights be refunded by the charter company. After all, he contracted for a vacation and he didn’t get one – but in event of the charter company not coming through, Allianz should have been a reliable backup. That’s why you buy third-party insurance.

  • marathon man

    Now, had the visit been done by some dictator from some country who considers himself to be the hand of God, then insurance could deny a claim because insurance usually states it does not cover acts of God. But in this case Obama doesnt quite consider himself that so they should cover it.

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