Hard decisions you shouldn’t have to make

Dennis Devermont saved $260 on his Baltic cruise, but the decision cost him $118,000. That’s how much he paid for an air ambulance from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Los Angeles, after his colon ruptured while at sea.

“The pain was unimaginable and unrelenting,” remembers Devermont, an attorney from Santa Monica, Calif.

Devermont later discovered he could have plunked down just $260 to join an annual medical transport membership program, which would’ve covered his emergency flight home.

“I wish I’d done that. It cost me a fortune to get back,” he adds.

On later trips to Africa and Indonesia, Devermont bought a supplemental membership from a company called MedjetAssist, which he says was an easy call.

Other travel choices aren’t.

For example, should you go for a more expensive, flexible airline ticket or take your chances with the cheapest fare? How about car rentals: spring for the optional insurance, or skip it? These decisions ought to be no-brainers, too, but they aren’t.

Consider optional car rental insurance. It comes in several flavors and always seems to be heavily promoted at the counter when you pick up your vehicle. Most travelers would agree that having insurance is a good idea. But is that still true when it doubles the cost of your car rental?

That was the dilemma faced by Richard Sharits, who recently rented a car from Alamo in Colorado Springs. Sharits, a computer scientist from Beavercreek, Ohio, faced a dizzying array of insurance “options” when he picked up his vehicle, including collision damage waiver ($23.99 a day), “extended” protection ($13.68 a day), roadside assistance protection ($4.99 per day) and personal accident insurance/personal effects coverage ($5.50 a day). If he had purchased them all, his rate would more than doubled. No thanks, he said, instead relying on the coverage offered by his credit card and car insurance.

But after he returned the car, Alamo said he damaged the bumper, and sent him a claim form. Sharits insisted he returned the car in the same shape as he picked it up, but an Alamo spokeswoman said the claim was valid. “Photos indicate that the bumper cover is pulled away, causing a very noticeable gap — something that would not be missed,” says spokeswoman Laura Bryant.

Alamo’s policy is a little disingenuous. Had it offered a more affordable insurance product, then Sharits, like countless other car rental customers, might have chosen this “optional” coverage. So why do car rental companies force their customers to play damage-claim roulette? Because insurance is incredibly profitable. And because either way, they win.

Ditto for airline tickets. Sonia Loigman, a reader from Philadelphia, contacted me after she had to cancel her vacation to Venice, Italy. Just before her flight, Loigman’s husband was hospitalized for 10 days and had to cancel the trip. US Airways offered the couple a credit, but she, too, had to go to the hospital for surgery.

Would the airline consider a refund? No.

The Loigmans could have purchased travel insurance or full-fare tickets. That would have allowed them to cancel their flight and receive a full refund, a representative told me. And that’s true enough. But it’s also correct that the insurance sold through airline websites has lots of exclusions, which might have applied to the couple. Also, a full-fare ticket would have cost them thousands more than a regular ticket. They are, in fact, priced for business travelers who are on expense accounts. The Loigmans probably had little choice.

Why can’t airlines offer fair fares? Simple reason: they would be less profitable. You either get a bargain ticket or pay an outrageous markup. Either way, you’ll sit in the same cramped economy class seat. The economics behind such pricing decisions may make sense, but the customer service explanation doesn’t.

The solution is obvious. No company should force a customer to choose between an underpriced, unfair product and overpriced but slightly fairer one. And Devermont, who said he almost died in the Russian hospital, shouldn’t have ever been placed in that situation. His ship’s doctor should have been able to take care of him until he could be transported to a competent medical facility.

If the free market can’t fix these problems, then maybe government regulators should.

Are airfares fair?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Avoiding hard choices

Buy the right insurance. A “cancel for any reason” policy is often a more cost-effective way of avoiding the high cost of a flexible fare. It’s more expensive than a standard travel insurance policy, but the cost often pales in comparison to that of a full-fare ticket. You can recover most of the cost of your trip.

Resist the upsell. Car rental employees are trained to push expensive insurance at the counter. Make sure your credit card or car insurance covers what you need, and then offer a polite “no.” To avoid a frivolous damage claim, be sure to take “before” and “after” images of your vehicle.

If you feel you’re stuck, pull out. If, at any point prior to completing a purchase, you’re made to feel as if you’re caught between two bad choices, abandon it and go elsewhere. For example, airlines such as Alaska Airlines and JetBlue offer more reasonable fares that don’t always force you to choose between low cost and flexibility.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by G1G.com

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend