Didn’t buy trip insurance? You might still have it


Sheri Schmidt’s husband suffers a massive stroke before their non-refundable flight to Brazil. Because she didn’t purchase trip insurance, JustFly informs her that a refund is not possible and that there will be hefty change fees associated with these tickets. But hold on — could Schmidt have the protection of an insurance policy after all?

Question: I’m writing to see if you can give me any help with the resolution of this problem. I purchased tickets for my husband and me from Miami to Rio de Janeiro through JustFly. The cost of the tickets was $1,617.

My husband had a massive stroke and a traumatic brain injury shortly before our scheduled flights. I called the following evening after this happened to cancel the tickets. I know now that I should have waited until I was thinking more clearly.

Although I did tell JustFly the circumstances, it charged me $150 in modification fees for each ticket. Then it only gave me a partial credit for our TAM flights. The net effect was that I ended up only credited a total of $485 toward my $1,617 purchase.

I have since learned that with a doctor’s letter the airlines will sometimes bend their non-refundable policy. I now have such a letter from our hospital. Might you be able to help me get a more equitable settlement? — Sheri Schmidt, Lonsdale, Minn.

Answer: When I reviewed your plea for help, I certainly sympathized and wanted to assist you. That’s reasonable — I’m a consumer advocate. Unfortunately, your hope that JustFly would have the same empathic reaction was a lofty one.

But in fairness to the company, it did handle this particular situation by the book. That is to say that the JustFly representative followed the rules of the ticket as outlined by the airline and its own terms and conditions.

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Airlines (and consumer advocates) receive numerous inquiries every week from passengers with this same type of request: How can I get a refund for my non-refundable ticket?

There seems to be a general misunderstanding of the terms of a non-refundable ticket.


Non-refundable tickets are as the name implies: They aren’t refundable — even if you have an unexpected health crisis such as your husband did. That is exactly what trip insurance was designed for — to protect against unplanned events.

If there is no trip insurance in place, a traveler must pay a change fee and any fare differential. In addition to those fees, there is always the added restriction that the tickets must be rebooked and used within one year of the date of purchase of the original ticket.

Your situation was further complicated because you involved a third party in your ticket purchase. When you do that, the airline has limited control over your ticket. In this situation, two requests for special consideration needed to be granted. And one of them, JustFly, has no history with us of granting such requests.

The path to a successful resolution for your case seemed rough. But I thought there might be one other route for you to try.

Recently, we have seen that many major credit cards are offering a basic trip insurance policy as an included benefit. Many consumers aren’t even aware that they may have this protection.

I suggested that you check with the credit card company that you used to book this trip and inquire about any included travel insurance.

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Surprise!

You had used the United MileagePlus Explorer card by Chase Bank. As outlined in your benefits, this card provides trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance when you use the card to pay for your travel:

If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to the benefit level for your prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses made with your MileagePlus Explorer Card, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.

And there are other travel benefits included as well, but this was all you needed.

You then filed a claim with your newly-found trip insurance policy. Although you had missed the deadline for submitting a claim, Chase granted a waiver on that detail. You have now been reimbursed for almost all of your expenses associated with this trip.

I wish your husband a speedy recovery, and I am happy to have been able to point you in the right direction to a positive resolution.


Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, consumer advocate, writer and photographer who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. She is Advocacy & Editorial Director at Elliott.org.

  • thinfool

    Great item…and one that the travel insurance industry is not interested in promoting. I believe that a LOT of $$ is spent by travelers who are duplicating coverage with standard travel insurance, even tho CC coverage is sufficient in many cases.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    It is great to hear that the OP was covered.

    It is somewhat ironic that an airline affinity credit card saved the day…Chris used to rail against these airline affinity credit cards a few years ago…it seems like an airline affinity credit card isn’t bad after all.

  • The Original Joe S

    JustFly: online travel agency. Using them is like saying ” Please abandon me when there’s a hint of a problem, and give me the run-around.”

  • UAPhil

    I had a similar situation; got full reimbursement for a $4,000 overseas itinerary because I had charged it to my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. And the claims process was relatively painless (I filled out a form online and uploaded the required documents.) (Chase Sapphire Preferred has similar coverage.)

    For medical issues, the only difference I am aware of is that credit cards don’t cover pre-existing conditions; traditional travel insurance does if you buy the policy within a few days of registering for the trip.

  • John McDonald

    JustFly would simply be told by airline, to go away, as a non-refundable ticket.

  • Maxwell Smart

    the statement above is just wrong

    “For medical issues, the only difference I am aware of is that credit cards don’t cover pre-existing conditions; traditional travel insurance does if you buy the policy within a few days of registering for the trip.”

    Majority of traditional travel insurance policies, don’t cover pre-existing conditions ever. Some tell you to go to a doctor & get an assessment, but insurance companies aren’t charities & don’t want to cover you if you are at high risk of making an expensive claim, esp in USA with the insane medical costs there. Why is medicine so expensive in USA ? No better than anywhere else in western world. Many would say it’s actually inferior. Ambulance chasers ?

  • Annie M

    You must read the policy for the cc carefully as all are not created equally. Some have limits, some do not.

    We had a client book an $8000 trip who declined travel insurance because her credit card offered coverage.

    A month before travel her husband had a stroke. She filed a claim with her cc insurance. She later found out the maximum payout for the insurance was only $1500. She lost $6500 on her trip.

    If you use you cc insurance- get a copy of the full policy and read it thoroughly to make sure you know exactly what and how much it covers. Some don’t offer much.

  • Annie M

    Within a certain time frame of making your deposit-typically 14-21 days from the date of deposit.

  • Annie M

    This is incorrect. Most major travel insurance companies DO offer a pre-existing waiver as long as you are medically able to travel the day you buy the policy and buy it within a certain time frame – usually 14-21 days of making your deposit.

  • thinfool

    If she was your client did you warn her to verify the limits of her CC coverage? You certainly had the fiduciary responsibilty as a travel professional to do so.

  • Annie M

    We certainly did and she
    signed off on a disclaimer that despite our recommendations and advice she opted out of purchasing.

    We know how to cover ourselves so a client can’t come back to us saying “but you never told me”.

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