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)
Related story:   Why did Google replace my defective phone with a refurbished one?

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.

Related story:   You'll never forget how your franchise made you feel

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?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

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.

  • sirwired

    I’m confused: A “claims administrator” says “Territorial Limits = 100 miles”, so who’s saying they weren’t within territorial limits? Isn’t TripMate the claims administrator?

    FWIW, I’d expect “Territorial Limits” to mean exactly what it says…

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    My first question is: “What is the product from TripMate? Travel Protection Plan or Travel Insurance Policy?”

    I briefly went to the TripMate’s website and it was plastered with ‘travel protection’ and the statement that their product could be purchased through their travel partners.

    It has been my experience that most Travel Protection Plans offer company’s scrip for refunds (since the travel company set the terms of the protection plan and they want your money); whereas, most Travel Insurance Policies offer money for refunds.

  • sirwired

    Most 1st-party cruise policies have two parts: The CFAR “waiver” which is usually (though not always) cruise credit, and administered by the cruise line. The remainder, including the other cancellation coverages (medical, terrorism, weather, job loss, etc.), are insurance, and offer cash.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Looking at TripMate website, they write ‘travel protection plans” for travel suppliers and providers…parts (or all of the parts) of the travel protection plans could be underwritten by an insurance company but they are NOT travel insurance policies…if they were travel insurance policies then the agents of Viking Cruises must be licensed as an insurance agent, the product must be licensed in each state; regulated by the state Department of Insurance; etc.

    It is like self-funded health plans…the company re-insure the big risks through an insurance company but they are health plans NOT health insurance.

    In the several years of buying travel insurance polices from Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip, none of the policies that I look at offer company scrip…they only offered CASH.

  • sirwired

    Just because something is an insurance product does not mean it MUST be sold by licensed agents. This is strictly on a state-by-state basis, and varies based on what sort of product is being sold. Extended Warranties at Best Buy are also insurance policies and regulated as such, but there’s no requirement that minimum-wage cashiers be licensed insurance agents.

    You repeatedly saying the word “protection” in the title renders the entire policy not-insurance is simply not true. If you look at Viking’s specific plan, it certainly refers to all non-cancellation coverages explicitly as “insurance”. (Cancellation coverages are a non-insurance “waiver”; CFAR is credit, non-CFAR cash.)

  • Daddydo

    I am afraid to travel is exactly what I as an American do not want to hear and every terrorist wants to hear. There was no “political” action occurring during or around the cruise as scheduled. My clients always are instructed to call and ask what if (?) before they cancel. Then I can talk with the insurance company to make sure that they are covered. I would guess that if the Tempkins had known that there would be no refund, and since there was no further political actions in the region, that they might have pulled up there boot straps and taken their well deserved trip.

  • Michael__K

    Here is the current TripMate policy sold through Viking:

    As @sirwired:disqus correctly states, it is an *insurance* policy except for the Cancellation Penalty Waiver which is paid in Travel Vouchers.

    My question is: can you show me ANY policy from ANY insurer (other than CFAR) which would have covered this?

  • Michael__K

    if they were travel insurance policies then the agents of Viking Cruises must be licensed as an insurance agent, the product must be licensed in each state; regulated by the state Department of Insurance; etc

    You keep asserting this on article after article, even after you’ve been corrected repeatedly (for example: here) and yet you continue to repeat it…

    As travel industry lobbyists have boasted, in at least 31 states (as of 2014) this is patently false:


  • Bill___A

    If there was a big enough risk, the cruise would have been cancelled. It wasn’t. The cruise company would be in a better position to determine the danger than various travelers.

    Unfortunate but that’s how it goes. There is a long list of places you should not go if you are concerned about these things.

  • Altosk

    Trip Mate: Another scammy company not to do business with.

  • I am just going to do a drive-by comment. Who the f*** comes up with this tripe about “the event” was just on March 22, 2016. This was a national level event for Belgium – and technically the EU – like 9/11 for the Belgians.

    Let’s recap THE FACTS:
    1) The terrorist attack was not just on the airport but also the Maalbeek metro station
    2) The attack remnants continued until March 29th, because the airport remained closed…thus the “attack’s” termination was March 29th.

    3) The European Commission was placed on lockdown — meaning the attack was deemed to be upon ALL the EU (because of its proximity to Maalbeek)

    4) The entire country was on lockdown – AND EVEN IMPOSED TEMPORARY BORDER RESTRICTIONS (even though the EU is a travel-free zone) – trying to capture one of the escaped perpetrators
    5) There was a national mourning period that lasted three days, which shut down the entire country for the most part.
    6) Controlled explosions took place in multiple points around the capital, such sa Maalbeek Station

    This – in a very real sense – was Belgium’s 9/11. It shut down the country. It is disingenuous at best to say that a terrorist event IS only the bombing. There is an aftermath.

    After 9/11, our air transport system was shut down – a ground stop – but slowly restarted on 9/13 for stranded planes. However, Reagan was closed until October 4th.

    Why put up with this crap? File a complaint with your State’s insurance commission…nail their testes to the carpet.

    Discreet event…my sweet Aunt Josephine!

  • Regina Litman

    I confess – I haven’t read the article yet, but with the type of headline that I know is going to make me sympthetic to the letter writer but categorized as “Case Dismissed!”, I’m not sure I want to read it. I’m stlll stinging over being outvoted by a large margin in the poll for today’s first article.

  • Oh, and why they offer scrip, is that then they’re only out the cost (a subset of the revenues), not the revenue.

  • Regina Litman

    OK, I read it and of course voted Yes. I’m in the minority, as expected, but it’s not a wide margin.

  • Michael__K

    Here’s the thing: which company sells a policy other than CFAR that would explicitly cover this?

  • Oh, and let’s remember it was the arrest of Salah Abdeslam that is said to have accelerated the attacks. He was the last of the Paris Attacks to be arrested…so the Paris Attacks could be technically said to have terminated with his arrest…many months later.

  • jmtabb

    I flew through Amsterdam, on my way to Brussels and back just one week after this trip was supposed to occur. There were no issues whatsoever in Amsterdam – no changes to security, no delays on the flights etc.

    Brussels in the city had much more visible security, including checks before being allowed into the subway, military posted at major intersections etc. There were armed military on the subway platforms as well.

    Brussels airport (before security) was like a war zone – with very very heavy security, operations set up in tents, multiple layers of security (cars and buses checked before being allowed to enter airport grounds, security checks before being allowed into the check-in tents, and then “regular” airport security once inside the building). There was a huge military presence outside the airport.

    But the Tempkins weren’t going to Brussels – their itinerary never included Brussels.

    A claims adjuster told them that “territorial limits” meant a 100 mile radius – but do they have that in writing? Because legally that term means something different. Any time I’m even considering using an insurance policy I double check with the insurance company and try to get in writing exactly what their CSR tells me is covered. Did that happen?

  • Rebecca

    Here’s the thing. The headline is INCREDIBLY misleading. The OP didn’t go to Brussels. They didn’t fly into Brussels, they had no layover/stopover in Brussels. Their cruise didn’t stop in Brussels. The departure date was 27 days after the terrorist attack in Brussels (where they didn’t go, never set foot in Brussels).

  • Rebecca

    The cruise didn’t depart until 28 days after the airport attack in Brussels. The OP didn’t set foot in Brussels, not even for an airport layover.

    The equivalency you’re using here to 9/11 would also imply that 28 days after 9/11, it would be unsafe to travel anywhere in the lower 48, and anyone with any sort of trip planned in October 2001 within the US should have canceled and received a full refund. That simply doesn’t make sense. I flew in October 2001. I had a colleague that flew out of NYC around the same time.

  • Michael__K

    Antwerp is close enough that some of its schools were in lockdown and several of the post-attack raids were conducted there. The video claiming responsibility for the attacks and vowing further attacks featured a jihadist from Antwerp. In May, members of another cell were arrested for a plot to bomb the Antwerp rail station.

    None of this is to say that the Temkins wouldn’t have been safe and couldn’t have enjoyed their trip.

    But I don’t blame them for their fears and concerns. And I blame TripMate’s Claim Administrator for misleading them to believe that they could cancel for a Covered Reason.

  • C Schwartz

    I looked at the itinerary of the cruise. On the 19th it was in Amsterdam, on the 20th of April, the ship was in Hoorn, on the 21st it was in Arnhein — the first three cities were over 100 miles from Brussels, so by the time the OPs were less than 100 miles from Brussels, the 30 days had passed. Hopefully the OPs can use the credit for another trip. I flew to Paris on March 27, 2016 but I realize that many people would not do the same.

  • PsyGuy

    Most of those terms are little more than marketing.

  • PsyGuy

    I wonder if there denial was more a means of maintaining policy and avoiding precedent.

  • Rebecca

    I noticed this as well. The other thing that’s making me nuts is that the scheduled departure date is exactly 4 weeks after the terrorist attack. Which is 28 days, not 29 days.

  • Annie M

    If they used a good travel agent, the agent would have told them that they wouldn’t be covered because the ship didn’t have a directly stop in Brussels. They should have called the insurance company before they canceled to find out if the insurance would cover the cancellation.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    IF a person has a travel insurance policy and there is an issue (i.e. the policy doesn’t pay a claim; stated a benefit but doesn’t pay out on it; etc.), the person can contact the Dept of InsuranceInsurance Commissioner to file a complaint. If there are too many complaints, the DeptCommissioner can stop the sale of a policy; pull the license of that company…at the very least, have a lot of paperwork to fill out. An insurance company doesn’t want to get complaints…it slows down the process to get new products licensed, etc.

    I have purchased travel insurance policies from Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip. I can go to the State of Arizona Department of Insurance website and see the insurance company, lines of insurance, etc. listed since they are regulated by the Dept. of Insurance. Travel Protections Plans are NOT listed on the State of AZ Dept of Insurance website because technically and legally they are NOT regulated by the Dept of Insurance since they are not an insurance policy.

    The companies that put together these protection plans are usually listed and licensed as a TPA (Third-Party Administrator). I have attached a picture showing Trip Mate as a TPA not as an insurance company in the state of Arizona.

    My point is that a consumer has one extra advocate, the Department of InsuranceInsurance Commissioner. on their side when they purchase a travel insurance policy than a travel protection plan.

    “You repeatedly saying the word “protection” in the title renders the entire policy not-insurance is simply not true.” Please provide me the name of a Travel Protection Plan that I can contact the AZ Dept of Insurance to see if it is licensed as an insurance policy. Trip Mate isn’t listed.

    Travel Protection Plans are self-funded “insurance” plans but they are not insurance policies thus why they call themselves ‘travel protection plans’. The risks are reinsured with an insurance company but they are not policies. It is common if not the norm for travel protection plans to say that their plan or program is underwritten by a XYZ Insurance Company or specific risks are underwritten by XYZ Insurance Company. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5451ce539966cb42825bc1849c1c83bfc0f4a014005f0dced3c00c888cc3f715.png

  • Rebecca

    I agree about the OP being misled. I also agree they would have enjoyed their trip. I understand Antwerp isn’t Brussels. I read a few newspapers every day, and I honestly understand their decision, although I wouldn’t have made the same one.

    But I definitely will stand by my statement that the headline is misleading. It implies the OP had a flight that day or very shortly thereafter and would physically be in the Brussels airport. That is how I interpreted it and what I expected to see below it. When I read the OP wouldn’t be in Brussels at all, even for a layover, I found that disingenuous.

  • sirwired

    If you had actually looked at the Viking Trip Mate policy, you would have seen that Trip Mate is just the administrator. The policy is provided by Arch Insurance, who most certainly is a licensed insurance company in AZ.

  • Annie M

    The actual policy states nothing about territorial limits – it simply states it has to occur in a city on the trip itinerary.

    a violent act (other than civil disorder or riot) which occurs in a city
    on Your trip itinerary within 30 days of Your scheduled trip departure,
    that is deemed a terrorist incident by the United States Government
    and documented in a Travel Advisory or Travel Warning issued by the
    United States’ Department of State;

  • Annie M

    None would have if the clients were not going to be stopping in Brussels.

  • Michael__K

    The insurance policies are misleading… BRU airport isn’t in Brussels either. It’s in Zaventem. Anyone who wasn’t arriving by air and who was headed to a destination between Zaventem and Central Brussels — including areas that were subject to prolonged lockdowns and business closures — wouldn’t be covered by the policy either.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    There are companies out there such as Trip Mate that goes to the airlines, cruise lines, tour operators, etc. to sell them on designing their own ‘travel protection plans’. These companies like Trip Mate make their money on the administration of these plans.

    On one website, it basically tells the travel supplierprovider that they determine the benefits, features and etc. Is this pro-consumer? One thing that they push is the use of company scrip over cash…just like this situation.

    This article reminds me of case where an older traveler (in his late 70s or early 80s) was told by his doctor that he couldn’t travel anymore. He had a travel protection plan from the tour operator in Boston, MA and he received a travel voucher which was non-transferrable for his tour that he had to cancel. In other words, it was worthless since he couldn’t travel anymore and he couldn’t give the voucher to someone else.

    The policies that I buy from Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip pay CASH not company scrip since they are NOT written by a travel provider but by an insurance company.

  • RightNow9435

    my thoughts exactly…..they should have won their claim

  • Michael__K

    FYI, travel agents and sellers of travel are NOT required to have a license to “offer and disseminate” travel insurance in AZ.

  • sirwired

    I’ve never said these were the world’s best insurance policies. They have good points and bad ones. (And I know HAL’s policy actually pays CAFR in cash) I’ve never personally purchased a 1st-party policy.

    I’ve merely said, over, and over, and over, that they ARE insurance (at least the parts that aren’t cancellation waivers.) And the word “protection” in the name doesn’t mean they aren’t. They are sold by licensed agents (the Viking policy even explicitly discusses what the not-an-insurance-agent travel agent is permitted to do and when they should defer to the company’s official representatives), they are underwritten by licensed insurance companies, they regulated by state insurance regulators, etc.

  • Doug_S

    I also don’t understand why the Temkins would need to cancel their trip in the first place. The terrorist attack wasn’t anywhere on their itinerary, so their trip wouldn’t have been affected since they were flying into and out of Amsterdam. I realize people are antsy about travel and terrorism, but this wouldn’t deter me … certainly not after a month. I tend to agree with the people who understand that travel to the US away from NYC wasn’t affected after 9/11 either. (I also went to Italy 3 weeks after 9/11, and other than a few security delays at JFK had no issues.)

    But they also got their travel voucher and can still use it. If they don’t, that is, frankly, their own issue. I’m not feeling a lot of sympathy for people who got their full trip value in the form of a voucher. They should simply rebook a later river cruise. If they want to book in a different country, so be it. The insurance company didn’t do anything wrong.

    What exactly could any advocate have gotten for them beyond 100% of what they were entitled to?

  • Regina Litman

    Which is why I’m glad I read the articl after all.

  • joycexyz

    We took the same cruise that departed a few days after the OP’s, and didn’t give it a second thought. We were hoping to visit Brussels (an added excursion) but it was “closed,” and Viking immediately refunded the money for that excursion. My opinion is that a place that has suffered a localized terrorist attack is probably pretty safe, given the enhanced security and police presence in the aftermath. Giving in to fear is giving in to the terrorists.

  • joycexyz

    The cruise begins and ends in Amsterdam. Why would they be in the Brussels airport?

  • joycexyz

    They were in Amsterdam, and it was several days before they entered Belgium.

  • Michael__K

    They DID contact the insurance company:

    A Claims Administrator defined “within the territorial limits of the City” as within a 100-mile radius.

    The current policy language doesn’t exactly match the language quoted by TripMate, (no reference to ‘territorial limits’) so presumably the contract offered by Viking has since been modified…

  • Lindabator

    so cancelling a trip that DID not go there, over a MONTH later should have been covered? Crazy

  • Lindabator

    exactly – just crazy

  • Lindabator

    you just think any reason is good enough for the companies to GIVE away their money – ridiculous

  • Michael__K

    TripMate is indeed the Claim Administrator, according to the policy Viking sells.

    And according to the article, they ‘defined “within the territorial limits of the City” as within a 100-mile radius.’ The passenger appears to have relied on this representation and gotten burnt by it.

  • I love how everyone judges foresight with the benefit of hindsight. Let’s use a hyperbolic example. December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor gets bombed. December 1942, enemy action is still going on…and would until 1945. On December 8, did we know we’d be at war for a year, 10 years, a generation? In fact, many still didn’t want to go to war (see Isolationist Movement). The point being, history is easier to analyze than future events.

    When the bombing took place – particularly on the heels of the Paris bombing, AND DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE PARIS BOMBING – who knew if it was going to turn out like it did…OR would be like WWII, or 9/11, or…

    She could only go off of the information available at the time. When you buy insurance, it’s meant to cover such events. So, yes, I think you all are out of your minds to judge this with the benefit of hindsight. At the time, the press was calling this the beginning of ISIS in Europe. The flood of Muslims causing a wave of violence? ISIS infiltrators posing as refugees? You saw the headlines.

    So, why risk one’s life for discretionary travel? Especially when you by insurance to cover yourself.

  • Rebecca

    Again, a false equivalency. Pearl Harbor was nearly 75 years ago. The Brussels and French terrorist attacks were less than a year ago. Pearl Harbor was bombed by an organized military at the behest of the Japanese governement. The European terror attacks were just that, terrorist attacks by separatist, terrorist organizations.

    Certainly the OP is entitled to cancel the trip. However, the insurance policy spells out exactly what will and will not be covered. With the CFAR, they receive vouchers so they can retake the cruise at a later date, yet they refuse to do so. I would argue that there were terrorist attacks in Europe, with the migration headlines you are referencing plastered in the news back in 2015 (certainly you remember the photo of the dead toddler and the capsized boats crammed with hundreds of people left to drown by a smuggler – multiple times), before this trip was planned.

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.