I had a panic attack and it ruined my honeymoon

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By Christopher Elliott

Here’s another one for my “honeymoon from hell” file. It comes to us by way of Christine Vianello, who was all set to fly to Jamaica after getting married last October when something went terribly wrong.

After boarding the flight she started to feel sick. “Claustrophobia took over my body and I began vomiting and hyperventilating,” she says. Uh-oh.

A flight attendant suggested she get off the plane.

“Just like that our honeymoon was over,” she says.

Fortunately, she and her husband had purchased a travel insurance policy through RBC Insurance and their travel agent, Liberty Travel. Vianello asked her doctor to provide the medical documentation and she filed a claim.

Can you guess what happened next?

After six months, we have not received a dime.

I am not requesting the airfare money back. All I want is my $4,000 for the honeymoon. I have been pretty much an emotional wreck since we found out we are not getting our money back.

The kicker is that every time I call them, I get hung up on. Please help, I do not know where to turn next.

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I didn’t have to ask Vianello why her claim had been denied. But I did anyway to make sure I hadn’t overlooked anything. RBC is telling her there’s a problem with her paperwork, but also that disorders such as claustrophobia are not covered by travel insurance.

Exclusions for mental disorders such as depression and claustrophobia are common. Even if they were covered, Vianello would have a hard time getting around the exclusion for pre-existing conditions.

Planning the perfect holiday can be quite stressful even during the best of times. Every bride dreams of having a flawless wedding and honeymoon, but we are well aware that many things can potentially go awry. Can this honeymoon be saved? There’s a remote possibility.

If an airline crewmember ordered her and her husband off the plane, and if there’s a written incident report that documents the airline asked the couple to disembark, then they might be able to make a case for a refund, if not a ticket credit. (I asked Vianello, and unfortunately, they simply left the airport and decided to take up the matter with their insurance company.)

Can they get a refund for a no-show?

The resort kept their $4,000 because they were no-shows, but again, they could appeal to the property and get a partial credit or a discount, maybe. But that’s also a long shot.

Another option is to take the matter up with Liberty Travel. If Vianello informed an agent that she had problems with enclosed spaces and was told the RBC policy would cover her, then she’d have a strong case. But such documentation would need to be in writing (unlikely) or in a recording (also unlikely).

The other issue is this: Even if everything gets fixed — and that’s a big “if” — and Vianello gets her plane fare and hotel back, then how would she go about claiming it?

If her airline and hotel offer her credit, how will she get to Jamaica if she’s claustrophobic and can’t fly? What if she suffers yet another panic attack on her replacement flight?

Maybe Jamaica was the wrong honeymoon destination for this couple. If they’re looking for a do-over, I might try something a little closer to home.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in São Paulo.

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