After the Middle East erupted in chaos earlier this year, Amber Ford decided to cancel her flight to Egypt. Good thing she’d bought insurance through Travel Guard, she thought. She’d be getting a full refund for the $2,500 she spent on her tickets.
Even though her policy promised to cover “a terrorist incident in a city listed on the Insured’s itinerary within 30 days of the Insured’s scheduled arrival,” Travel Guard didn’t define the events surrounding Egypt’s regime change as terrorism.
“The events that took place in were quite frightening, and unforeseen,” says Ford. “After we filed a claim around the civil unrest and subsequent terrorist and riotous behavior, Travel Guard decided that this dangerous activity is no grounds to pay the claim.”
Could I help?
I have to be honest: If you asked me to tell you the difference between revolutionary behavior and terrorist behavior, I might have a hard time. The situation in Egypt was troubling. My advice back in January was simple: don’t go.
The US government defines terrorism as:
Any activity that (A) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life that is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State; and (B) appears to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping.”
Ford says it’s clear that the Egyptian uprising qualifies as terrorism. “We are absolutely entitled to receive our $2,500 back,” she says.
I contacted Travel Guard on her behalf. A representative responded to my inquiry quickly, pointing me to the company’s definition of terrorism:
“Terrorist Incident” means an act of violence, that is deemed terrorism by the United States Government other than civil disorder or riot (that is not an act of war, declared or undeclared) that results in loss of life or major damage to property, by any person acting on behalf of or in connection with any organization which is generally recognized as having the intent to overthrow or influence the control of any government.
So no, not quite the same thing.
“If she would have purchased a plan that included a Cancel for Any Reason upgrade and added that, she would have been covered,” the representative told me. “Travel Guard began offering Cancel for Any Reason coverage specifically for travelers looking for extended coverage and protection against what most travel insurance plans collectively list as general exclusions.”
The Travel Guard representative also suggested Ford should have read the fine print in her insurance policy, and if she had any doubts about whether her coverage would be enough, she could have upgraded to a cancel for any reason policy.
After some back-and-forth between Ford and Travel Guard, the company agreed to contact her directly and work through the case to see if it might find a valid reason to honor her claim. I was encouraged by that.
Unfortunately, it never got in touch with her (see update, below).
So today I’m closing her file. We’ve been through this many times — snagged by the fine print — and I’m sure it will happen again. Folks, travel insurance can be a good thing, but you have to read your policy carefully.
Ford should have at least called Travel Guard to make sure her cancellation was covered under her policy before canceling her flight. Any competent representative would have told her that she wasn’t, and that might have influenced her decision to call off her vacation.
It kills me to see travelers whose insurance didn’t cover them. Travel Guard’s reasons for turning Ford down may be perfectly legitimate, but that doesn’t make her loss of $2,500 any easier.
Update: (6:30 p.m.) Travel Guard contacted me to let me know that “there was, in fact, communication between Amber and a Travel Guard claims representative” after I brought this case to Travel Guard’s attention. “Unfortunately, after careful review of the situation, there was no way Travel Guard could legally cover Amber’s claim,” a representative said.
Update 2: (5/18) Ford says she hasn’t heard from Travel Guard yet.
(Photo: archer 10/Flickr Creative Commons)