When Mal Karman booked a Hawaiian Airlines ticket from San Francisco to Oahu, he also took out a travel insurance through Allianz Global Assistance — just to be safe. He even arrived early for his flight.
So far, so good.
Enter the TSA.
Karman requested a security pat-down instead of passing through the screener. TSA allows passengers to opt-out of the screening by X-ray and advanced imaging, and some passengers with certain medical conditions, such as Karman, elect to do so.
TSA policy establishes that the pat-down will be conducted by an officer of the same gender, right next to the scanners, or, if desired, in private. Karman didn’t need a private pat-down, but he was told to sit down and wait.
And wait he did.
After what seemed like an awfully long time, Karman got up to ask about his pat-down. He was told to have a seat, and he did.
Forty minutes had passed when an officer finally came, and, according to Karman, very politely conducted the pat-down. They then moved on to Karman’s carry-on, which contained a laptop.
“The officer swabbed the bag itself, and then — Gawd! — his test device flashed red,” he remembers. “He kind of winced — as if he didn’t believe it — went through the process all over again, and again a red warning signal.”
He called another agent to assist, and eventually, a supervisor. Another three scans for the laptop and a 15-minute wait for a supervisor, and Karman was free to go to Oahu.
Except for one small problem. His flight had left without him.
He went to another Hawaiian Airlines gate to explain the TSA-induced delay. The gate agent said, “Oh, we were looking for you!”
The gate agent presented Karman with two options: wait 24 hours for the next plane to Oahu, or take the flight about to depart for Maui, and purchase a ticket from Maui to Oahu.
Not wanting to wait an entire day to leave, Karman chose the latter option, knowing his travel insurance would cover the expenses incurred by this delay.
Or would it?
After Karman’s return to San Francisco, he contacted Allianz to file a reimbursement claim for the $269 he paid for the flight between Maui and Oahu and ground transportation to his resort, expenses directly resulting from that lengthy security screening in San Francisco.
Allianz explained, with all the heart and sensitivity of a massive insurance carrier, “We don’t cover delays caused by TSA.”
While ineloquent and infuriating, Allianz’s conclusion is probably correct. We have asked Karman for a paper trail so we can examine the terms of his particular policy, and we will update this story when those facts become available.
Travel insurance policies generally cover expenses related to delays lasting beyond 12 hours. For example, if your flight is delayed overnight, insurance may reimburse the cost of a hotel room, travel by taxi, and a meal.
Travel insurance policies also cover trip cancellation for certain situations, such as involvement in a car accident directly on the way to the airport.
Turns out these policies have many more exclusions than coverages.
What most travel insurance does not cover are delays caused at security or by forgetting your passport, showing up late to the airport, or other situations that are arguably within the passenger’s control.
It’s true, and probably wise, that most passengers do not argue with TSA to hurry up. But, should Karman have arrived earlier to the airport, knowing he would require alternate screening?
For one, Hawaiian Airlines “urges passengers to arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to overseas flights.” TSA also recommends passengers get to larger airports two hours before departure.
Should Karman expect compensation from either Hawaiian Airlines or Allianz for his interisland flight? Or should he have arrived at the airport even earlier?