Missed connection, denied claim

Q: I traveled to Egypt this spring and, as a precaution, I insured my trip through Access America. Before I left, I called the company to find out if I would be compensated if I missed my connecting flight. A representative told me I would be.

On my way back to the States, security was very tight because there had just been five bombings in Egypt, and my flight was delayed. It took about three hours to get through customs in New York. By the time I made it to my terminal to connect with my flight back home, I had missed my flight to Phoenix.

I had to pay $669 to buy a new ticket to get home. I filed a claim with Access America, but it was denied. At that point, I called the company anonymously and asked the agent, “If I missed my flight, would you pay for my trip home?” Again, the agent said “Yes.”

I feel that Access America misled me into buying their insurance. They will tell you anything to sell you a policy and always find a loophole when it comes to paying a claim. Can you help?

Dawn Duane Wolf, Sun Lakes, Ariz.

A: Access America should reimburse you for your missed connection if that’s what it said it would do.

But did a company representative ever promise to refund your specific ticket? Or were you just speaking about a hypothetical missed connection? Travel insurance companies carefully train their call center employees to speak only in generalities, since claims can’t be adjudicated by phone.

The trouble with travel insurance — with any kind of insurance, for that matter — is the fine print. Yes, you’re “covered” but there are exceptions. Those exceptions are clearly spelled out in your policy, though in type that is rendered so small it’s barely legible.

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When you insure your trip, it’s important to read the entire contract, including the legalese, before you buy the policy. Don’t take anyone’s word for it. Not a phone representative. Not a travel agent. No one.

Also, remember to bring a copy of the policy with you so you can consult it while you’re traveling. That way, if you run into trouble you can refer directly to the policy rather than rely on a phone agent for answers to important coverage questions.

I checked with Access America, and the company agreed to take another look at your case.

According to its records, your explanation to the company for your missed flight from New York to Phoenix was slightly different from the one you offered me. In addition to the full flight, you mentioned that there were three or four other international arrivals (which is not unusual) and a shift change for customs at 4 p.m. You told Access America it took you two hours to get through customs and another 20 to 30 minutes to transfer to your terminal.

Check out Part 6, Section H, of your contract for what is — and isn’t — covered in the event of a missed connection. You would have been covered for up to $300 — if you had been delayed by a traffic accident or bad weather. Unfortunately, there is no mention of customs delays.

“It was a confluence of events that caused Ms. Wolf’s delay,” said a spokeswoman for Access America. “None of them were covered under her policy.”

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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