What kind of “ticket protection” is this, anyway?

When Vance Luke bought an airline ticket for his daughter, he added optional “Ticket Protection” through International Travel Network (ITN). So when his daughter was hospitalized just before her trip, he expected that she would get a full refund for the cost of the ticket.

It didn’t happen.

Not all insurance is the same, as Luke learned. His story is a warning to anyone considering travel insurance or “protection.”

Here’s what happened to Luke. He’d planned to fly to Kenya with his daughter to help rebuild a school. But the trip never happened after she ended up in the hospital just before they were supposed to leave.

“I applied for a refund,” he says. “A letter from the physician was submitted. But she was only refunded 50 percent because she was not in the hospital at the time of departure.”

Luke says he believes ITN misled him about the insurance. But did it?

Luke had purchased insurance through a company called ASAP Tickets Protection

Unfortunately, the terms of the insurance were clear on the purchase page. While an introductory video to the protection glosses over the fine print, the actual contract is unambiguous:

Refunds: 100 percent refund of fully unused tickets for traveler(s) hospitalized at the time of scheduled departure. The traveler(s) must provide his/her hospitalization certificate to ITN and cancel the reservation before the scheduled departure. 50 percent refund of fully unused ticket for traveler(s) unable to take their trip due to sickness. The traveler(s) must provide doctor`s note to ITN and cancel the reservation before the scheduled departure. The doctor`s note must be verifiable and state that the doctor clearly prohibits passenger to take the trip.

Also, Luke had to click on a button that said that he agreed to the terms.

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Although the insurance did not cover much, it did cover something.

Luke’s daughter was flying with British Airways. Had Luke not purchased the insurance, his daughter would have been charged a $300 penalty and then been given a credit to apply to a future flight.

That might have suited some travelers, but not Luke.

Because he had purchased the insurance, albeit a basic policy, Luke was entitled to a cash refund of the ticket price, less the $300 British Airways refund penalty, an ITN penalty of $82 and a $121 service fee. That meant that he got a refund of about 50 percent, which he wasn’t happy with. But without this policy, he would have received no refund at all, and because the terms of the policy weren’t hidden we could not help him obtain a full refund.

Should Vance Luke have been issued a full refund instead of a 50% refund?

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John Galbraith

John is a UK based lawyer and writer. He loves to travel and can be frequently found in remote locations in a suit and cravat. Read more of John's articles here.

  • jim6555

    I didn’t vote because the question does not address what I perceive to be the real problem. A better question might be “Should travel insurers be required to prominently display the terms and conditions of their policies on their websites and on any printed materials given to the prospective purchaser?”). Important information like what is covered should not be hidden in the fine print.
    Also, to sell many types of insurance, a license is required. Shouldn’t either the federal government or the states begin licensing companies selling travel insurance so that the opportunity to sell can be suspended or revoked if the company fails to meet certain ethical standards? Doing so will bring order to what is now a chaotic marketplace.

  • AJPeabody

    Look before you leap.
    Read before you sign.
    Caveat emptor.
    There is nothing new under the sun.

  • finance_tony

    I can’t answer either. The article seems purposely vague, saying twice that she was hospitalized “just before” the trip. What does that mean?

    If she was hospitalized two weeks before the trip, discharged a week before, and declared fit to travel, then I wouldn’t think a refund is due.

    On the other hand, if she was discharged two hours before departure, or two days before departure with a doctor’s warning that she needed a week’s recovery time, then a case might be made with the insurer that the hospitalization precluded her from traveling despite not being an inpatient at the moment of departure.

  • Mel LeCompte Jr.

    I’m in agreement, especially if there was some continuation of care (home health visits, rented DME equipment, etc) due to the hospitalization. My wife works as a case manager (a liason between hospital and insurance companies) and she is often in disbelief at how quickly insurance companies force patience out of their hospital beds.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    The real problem in this situation is that there are no ‘standards’ for travel insurance policies. The same benefit (Trip Cancellation) of one policy is different (i.e. payout; terms; etc) then the same benefit of another policy. The solution is simple…the standardization of travel insurance policies.

    If there was a standardization of travel insurance policies then Trip Cancellation for every travel insurance policy will have the same terms, payout, etc. Consumers won’t have to research the policies to understand and compare the same benefit every policy and etc.

    In 1992, the government standardized Medicare SupplementMedigap insurance policies to ten plans. Basically the standardization of Medigap plans required all insurance companies to offer the same coverage in Medicare Supplement Plans (A – N). This was required so that plan comparison would be easier. Before 1992, it was extremely difficult for consumers to select since every Medigap policy were different.

    It is my opinion that tf the government standardized travel insurance policies to 10 to 20 policies, it will make it easier for the consumer to compare plans, select a plan to their needs, etc.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    There is a difference between a travel insurance policy and a travel protection plan.

    A travel insurance policy is issued by an insurance. For example, I can go to the Arizona Department of Insurance website and can see that the policy is licensed by the state, etc.

    A travel protection plan is issued by a third party.(i.e. a TPA, a travel provider, etc). A travel provider will go to a company that specializes in travel protection…these companies will ask the travel provider what the benefits they want to cover, the type payout (i.e. company scrip instead of cash payout); etc…these companies will re-insure these plans with an insurance company (thus the typically marketing statement of “this policy is underwritten by this ‘too large to fail insurance company’)…usually these companies are TPAs (Third-Party Administrators) of the plans (i.e. they will process the claims, etc.). If I go the Arizona Department of Insurance website, I can see the company licensed as a TPA but the travel protection plan is not listed as an insurance policy.

    The best solution to clean up this issue is the standardization of the travel insurance policies.

  • Bobby Dale

    No, the solution is EDUCATION and Caveat Emptor.
    Once a regulation is put in place, by any government agency, revoking it is next to impossible, thus forcing unintended consequences to live in perpetuity unless a powerful (wealthy) lobby decides to push it through.
    The best example of this currently in play is the government regulation of taxicabs. In most cities the price of transport has declined and quality improved over the past 5 years due to the removal of the archaic rules protecting a few privileged license owners.
    If you wish to consider the telecom industry, think about all of the phones and their features in 1984 compared to now. The standards began and ended with AT&T in 1984, they owned the system and the regulators in all 50 states. Also consider the current state of wireline services, such as cable and fiber internet services, which are rapidly improving due to competition from the wireless industry. Cable companies are regulated by countless local entities and subjected their customers to poor service and customer service until the wireless systems, both cellular and satellite, started breathing down their necks and poaching customers. Go to your local city or county government and ask about removing the monopoly from the cable company, they will first stare at you like you were from Mars then they will look at the tax they receive from the cable company (YOU) and treat you like you have Ebola.

    Government standardized policies instituted 10 years ago would not cover UBER/Lyft or Megabus, nor account for airline baggage fees, or AirBNB/VRBO cancellation to name a few changes which have occurred in that interim. The big boys, airlines, hotel companies and cruise lines, which account for the majority of the posts on this site, would control the regulation process and leave us all in a worse position. Why do you think the finance industry is capable of their predatory actions? Could it be that the banks on Wall Street are spending large sums of money to steer the rule making process? Dodd Frank was named for two of the worst Congressional offenders in the lead up to the meltdown of 2008.

    Believe it or not some people do not want you or anyone else making decisions for them and would prefer to be free and subject to the consequences of their own actions.

  • Lindabator

    and Chris posted the popup, so no excuse, as he had to accept at time of purchase – and it was crystal clear as to terms

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