Why won’t travel insurance cover my flight cancellation?


Michele Kemp and her family cancel a flight after her sister falls ill. Good thing she bought travel insurance, right? Wrong. But how can she get her money back?

Question: I was supposed to fly from Sacramento, Calif., to Seattle with my sister and mother for a family wedding recently. Before our trip, my sister had to be rushed to the emergency room with an unexpected heart condition. This prevented us from traveling.

I had purchased travel insurance when I made this booking through Travelocity. Little good that did. Travelocity canceled our flights and sent me directions on how to apply for a refund from Delta Air Lines. Delta has a clause for illness-related cancellations, but they decided that they could not give us a refund but could send us a voucher that we could apply towards a future purchase.

Is there anything else we can do to receive a refund? We charged all three flights on my sister’s credit card. She can’t afford to reimburse me or my mother now. My sister does not wish to fly anywhere now, since she’s scheduled for another heart-related procedure and still under cardiac care. Can you help? — Michele Kemp, Sacramento, Calif.


Answer: The travel insurance you bought through Travelocity should have fully covered your cancellation. The policy you purchased provides a full refund for a medical cancellation. Instead of fulfilling its obligation, Travelocity bounced you to Delta, which only agreed to waive your cancellation fees — not the answer you were hoping for.

When a company doesn’t meet its obligations and bounces you to a third party, you can usually put an end to it by starting a paper trail and escalating it to an executive, if necessary. By “paper trail” I mean keeping everything in writing — no phone calls.

Related story:   A diverted flight, a broken promise

It looks as if you spent many frustrating hours on the phone with Travelocity and Delta, trying to get an immediate resolution. But insurance claims can take time, and they must be meticulously documented.

I list the names, numbers and email addresses of all the bigwigs at Travelocity (owned by Expedia) and Delta on my consumer advocacy site. You could have appealed to one of them and asked for help.

I contacted Travelocity on your behalf. It turns out you were covered, but you hadn’t been given the correct instructions for filing a claim. After you received the information, you filed a claim, and six weeks later, you received an $811 refund, which covers all three tickets. I wish your sister a speedy recovery.


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.

  • Donald Filiault

    in my opinion, a person can avoid future problems by using sites like Travelocity as an information source, locating a booking that looks attractive (like Delta) and then booking directly with Delta. There might be situations where Travelocity has a better price, but in all of my years of traveling, I’ve never encountered a situation where this was true. If you find such a situation, by all means, book where the best deal is.

  • El Dorado Hills

    I agree with Donald. Time after time we read on Elliott’s stories of problems that involve a middle person/business – and when a problem happens you get passed around – the “not us” story. You might save a little up front but in the long run you can loose more. Make your actual reservations with the hotel/airline and know that if there is a problem you are dealing with the entity that help you solve that problem.

  • Chriscfrn

    Except that Travelocity’s insurance DID cover it while Delta would not. So booking with Delta would not have resulted in recovering the money. Travelocity erred in its instructions but ultimately paid up.

  • Lindabator

    but thy, too, offer travel insurance which would have covered them

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