Why won’t Trip Mate pay our insurance claim? I mean, the airport was bombed, for goodness sakes

After the recent terrorist attacks on Brussels, Kenneth and Nancy Temkin thought they could cancel their Viking River Cruise and receive a full refund. After all, they had travel insurance that was supposed to see them through emergencies.

But they thought wrong.

Their claim was denied – a sad reminder that travel insurance doesn’t always help the insured. Their story is yet another warning to purchasers of travel insurance to understand exactly what benefits they are buying under their coverage, and how their carrier will issue the benefits.

The cruise was a ten-day sojourn beginning and ending in Amsterdam with stops in Belgium. Although the cruise itinerary would have brought the Temkins within 100 miles of Brussels during seven of the ten days, Brussels itself was not among the cruise’s ports of call.

The Temkins paid over $12,000 for the cruise, including $1,238 in travel insurance through Trip Mate. Following the terrorist attacks in March, the Temkins chose to cancel their cruise. They requested cash refunds of their cruise fares through Trip Mate.

The Temkins’ Trip Mate policy provides for payment of benefits as a covered reason for trip cancellation: “If within 30 days of Your departure, a politically motivated Terrorist Attack occurs within the territorial limits of the City listed on Your itinerary.”

The Temkins were scheduled to depart on the cruise on April 19, 29 days after the attacks on March 22. A Claims Administrator defined “within the territorial limits of the City” as within a 100-mile radius.

On seven of the ten days of the cruise, the itinerary would have taken the Temkins to the cities of

  • Kinderdijk, Netherlands (88 miles from Brussels)
  • Antwerp, Belgium (23 miles from Brussels)
  • Bruges, Belgium (63 miles from Brussels)
  • Ghent, Belgium (35 miles from Brussels)
  • Veere, Netherlands (82 miles from Brussels)
  • Rotterdam, Netherlands (92 miles from Brussels)
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So the Temkins thought that their trip cancellation was covered under the policy. But Trip Mate disagreed.

Trip Mate offered the Temkins vouchers for a cruise to be taken within one year of the date of issuance (May 25). But the Temkins “had no intention of using the vouchers.” They contacted our advocates for assistance in getting cash refunds for their cruise fares.

When we reached out to Trip Mate on behalf of the Temkins, we received the following response:

In response to your inquiry to Trip Mate on behalf of consumers Kenneth and Nancy Temkin, the Trip Mate team conducted a full review of this file, which confirmed that the claim does not meet a covered reason for a cash refund under the terms of the Plan.

The Temkins sent a trip cancellation notice to Trip Mate on April 5, stating as the reason “U.S. State Dept. Travel Alert.” The claim evoked the following clause in their trip cancellation policy: “[i]f within 30 days of Your departure, a politically motivated Terrorist Attack occurs within the territorial limits of the City listed on Your itinerary….”

The cruise departed on April 19, 2016. The only terrorist attack occurring in that region within 30 days of the departure date was in Brussels on March 22. The cruise had no scheduled stop in Brussels.

On May 24, 2016, Trip Mate notified the Temkins that because the reason they cited for their cancellation was not listed among the covered causes of loss, “we are unable to consider this to be a covered claim under the Plan provisions.”

The Temkins were eligible for benefits under the Plan’s Cancel for Any Reason Waiver Benefit. Through this benefit, Trip Mate issued them Viking Cruises Vouchers in the amount of $5,016.50 per person, dated May 25, 2016, and valid for travel anywhere that Viking travels within 12 months of the date of issue. The Cancel for Any Reason Waiver Benefit provides for an equivalent travel voucher, not a cash refund.

It isn’t clear to our advocates why Brussels is not considered “within the territorial limits” of the cities listed on the Temkins’ itinerary, but we feel that the Temkins should have been aware that the Cancel for Any Reason Waiver Benefit that they purchased through their insurance plan with Trip Mate did not allow for cash refunds of their cruise fares.

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Unfortunately, the only compensation the Temkins can get from Trip Mate are the vouchers that they didn’t want. Perhaps they will use the vouchers for another cruise. But no cash refunds are forthcoming from Trip Mate.

Should Trip Mate have honored the Temkins' claim?

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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