Congratulations, you’re pregnant — now kiss your Hawaii vacation good-bye

Is travel insurance a waste of money, as some commenters suggested in yesterday’s post? Meet Heidi Larson, whose vacation has been put on hold by an unexpected but common medical condition. She’ll give you an earful about insurance.

Last year, she and her husband planned a special getaway to Hawaii with friends from England, in September 2010. It was, as she describes it, a “dream vacation” that would include the renewal of their friends’ wedding vows.

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Then she got some good news: Larson was pregnant.

“Naturally, my main concern — after realizing that we are actualy bringing a child into this world — was: ‘Oh no — Hawaii!'”

Within the week of learning the news, I saw my doctor. She said there’s absolutely no way am I to fly or travel anywhere after September 1st of this year because I will be in my third trimester. Naturally, I am devastated about this.

Larson booked her flights through Expedia, and had bought flight protection. But when she tried to make a claim, she learned that pregnancy was a named peril — in other words, that she wasn’t covered.

How about re-using her airline ticket credit? She checked with American Airlines.

I am told that American Airlines policy is that I will get a voucher for a credit of the amount that I paid for the four ticket and the voucher will have to be used within one year of the original date of purchase (November 2009)… which means that I will have to use the tickets before November 2010. Which is when my baby is due. Hello!

Put differently, she can not only kiss her Hawaii vacation good-bye, but also the $3,798 she spent on airfare.

Ultimately, I would love to get my money back, but American Airlines will not budge. They are not very sympathetic and I personally believe that I have given them plenty of notice for the seats on our flights to be re-sold, so it’s not like they are even losing any money.

What can I do? Anything? Or, am I just a whiner that needs to get over it?

I don’t think Larson is being a whiner. She did everything she could, including buying trip insurance and notifying her online travel agent and airline immediately that she couldn’t take the flight. With the help of one of our volunteers, Chris Chao, we reached out to Expedia to see if she could be helped.

After a long wait, Expedia responded directly to her:

Our records show that on March 10, 2010 you contacted our customer service representatives to cancel your round-trip flights to Hawaii for September 2010 due to medical complications.

Because you purchased Expedia Flight Protection when you purchased your flights in November 2009, you are able to make a claim with BerkeleyCare, the insurance provider for the Flight Protection, and request a refund for your flights. We apologize that our representative did not provide you with the information for making an insurance claim at the time of your call. We have contacted BerkeleyCare on your behalf to advocate your situation, and they have informed us that the approval of your claim will depend on the information provided by your physician.

In the event that the insurance provider denies your claim, you still retain flight credits for all four original passengers on American Airlines. To use these credits, travel must begin by November 1, 2010, and an airline change fee of $150.00 per ticket will be payable at the time of exchange, in addition to any increase in fare.

To recognize the service error from our customer service representatives at the time of your call on March 10, we have provided your online Expedia account with a $200 Electronic Travel Coupon.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t really address Larson’s problem. And so, with just weeks before her due date and the ticket vouchers expire, she’s back to square one.

(Photo: Dave Winnie/Flickr Creative Commons)