Sorry, your travel insurance doesn’t cover mother-in-law’s death

Stack of paperwork. / Photo by Jenni C – Flickr Creative Commons
It’s been a while since I mediated travel insurance claim, and at first glance, Dennis Puskaric’s looked like a slam-dunk.

Puskaric and his wife were vacationing in Oregon when they received the sad news that his mother-in-law had died. They had to fly back to Pennsylvania immediately, and they assumed that since they’d purchased an Allianz policy through Delta Air Lines, the claims process would be little more than a formality.

It wasn’t. Instead, his claim for a return of his lost airline miles, rental car and hotel bills, was summarily rejected by Allianz. Not only had his two-week vacation been reduced to two days, but he now had $3,468 in additional expenses that Allianz refused to cover.

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“Please help me,” he wrote.

After looking at his claim, I thought it was worth a try to advocate for the Puskarics. They’d made a good-faith effort to insure their trip, and couldn’t have foreseen Mom’s death.

What’s more, there’s a precedent for refunding miles lost as a result of an insurance claim, and the fact that the policy was purchased through Delta’s site would give the average traveler the impression that they’d be covered.

So I contacted Allianz.

Here’s its response:

We are very sorry to learn of the loss of Mr. Puskaric’s family member and we wish him and his family the best.

Under the terms of Mr. Puskaric’s travel insurance policy, he was covered for the unused part of his prepaid travel expenses and the extra out of pocket costs for reasonable transportation expenses to return home if he needed to interrupt his trip.

As the additional hotel and meal expenses he claimed were not prepaid expenses, we’re not able to reimburse him for those costs. Our review also shows that the rental car company charged him only for the days he was driving the car.

As Mr. Puskaric used frequent flyer miles to change his travel plans, he did not incur an out of pocket expense and therefore does not have a reimbursable claim.

Had Mr. Puskaric called us before he changed his plans, we would have advised him to pay for his flight change. We would have been happy to reimburse him for that out of pocket cost as well as the fee the airline might charge him to redeposit his frequent flyer miles.

Am I happy with that response? No. Neither is Puskaric.

“This is the identical response that I had received,” he says. “Can you persuade them to quit writing the company line and do a serious review of my claim?”

The short answer is: no. Short of taking the company to court, this is probably the best I’ll be able to do. I find that upsetting.

Before I get to my rant about travel insurance — wait for it! — let’s underscore the takeaway for the rest of us.

When you think you have to make a travel insurance claim, talk with the insurance company first. When possible, get any promises made by phone in writing so that there’s no possibility of a misunderstanding.

And yes — assume nothing.

Regarding this case, I think Allianz missed an opportunity to show that even though the contract can be interpreted in a way that allows it to deny a claim (which all contracts do, inevitably) that it understands good customer service.

Sure, Puskaric should have phoned Allianz, but should he have to pay $3,468 for that mistake? I don’t think so.

Stories like this give consumers a reason to believe travel insurance isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, which is unfortunate. I believe there are times when an honest travel insurance policy can protect you from unexpected events when you travel.

The repeated rejection of Puskaric’s claim doesn’t exactly build confidence in travel insurance products.

140 thoughts on “Sorry, your travel insurance doesn’t cover mother-in-law’s death

  1. Seems to me there are three issues: Miles, hotel, and rental car.  In order:

    MILES: Allianz should have taken care of the miles.  Their solution, pay for a one way trip home then get reimbursed is terrible. A walk up, one way ticket can be prohibitively expensive depending on where you are traveling.  The OP might not have the available funds or credit to do so.  That’s why they took out an insurance policy.

    Hotel/car:  If there were additional expenses associated with the change, the OP should have been covered.

    1.  But how to “take care” of the miles?  Airlines do sell miles for cheap wholesale as part of promotional programs.  One-time mileage purchases, like what an insurance company would have to buy for claims?  They are sold for a crazy-high cost and are meant for people to “top-off” their account so they can take a big trip.  They are far too expensive to simply purchase a ticket’s-worth.

      1.  Its a travel insurance company.  It should not be hard for it to anticipate that some fliers would need mileage reimbursement.

        It’s especially noteworthy that the insurance company already has a relationship with Delta as Delta is the one that sells their policy.  So its not as if the insurance company has to scramble to figure out how to get miles for the OP.  They should be set up like any of the numerous other vendors like credit card companies, magazines, dining clubs, etc. who allow their members to accumulate miles.

        Additionally the cost that you and I pay for miles directly from the airline is about a bazzillion times more expensive that that a merchant partner would pay.

        Just me $0.02

    2. And there’s the rub; I’m not sure what the problem is here. What is the OP claiming as far as hotel and rental car? If, indeed, the rental car company charged him for just the days used, what’s the beef? Likewise, I don’t understand the hotel dispute. Did the hotel charge him for the entire stay and refuse to reimburse the unused portion?

      And what’s with the meals?

      Chris – Maybe I’m just slow today, but I think there’s some additional explanations needed here.

    3. The miles SHOULD be covered.  When Delta offered the insurance, the clear understanding is the Delta flight is covered.  If paid in miles, refund the miles.  If paid in cash, refund the cash.  If paid by e-voucher, reinstate the e-voucher.  

      Allianz is implying that miles have no value which is completely untrue.  Allianz could also reimburse for the value of the ticket at the time purchase if it had been in cash.

      And the idea of paying the ‘walk up’ rate is silly.  My understanding is that insureds have a legal obligation to mitigate, to the extent reasonable, any loss.  Paying the ‘walk up’ rate clearly isn’t trying to mitigate the loss.  Allianz is out of line here.

    4. I think I remember Allianz telling me they would reimburse the redeposit fees to put the mileage back into my account.  Did he incur that, or did delta tell him he could not due that since that can only be done more than 72 hours before the flight.  If delta wont reinstate the miles, not even an insurance company can force their hand.

  2. I’m confused – did he actually pay for the rental car and hotel bills, or did he just have a reservation that he could cancel?  He says he paid for them and is asking to be reimbursed (plus the airline), the insurance company says he did not pay for the rental car / hotel, thus can’t be reimbursed.  Which is correct?

      1.  Yeah, no trip insurance policy covers the parts of your trip you actually used.  None.  At all.  It’s not a loophole or fine-print exclusion.

        They will cover additional cost, which is the real point of dispute here.

        1. Yea, but if he pre-paid for a 7 day hotel stay and only used two days, it would seem fair to be re-imbursed 5/7 of the hotel bill.

  3. Don’t you love how “insurance” companies create impossible loopholes for us trained seals to jump through? I mean, really. The response from this “company” is ridiculous. 

    And note that company is in quotes…because I have a hard time taking a company seriously that calls itself Allianz. What is that? Teenybopper netspeak??!

    Lesson in life: If an airline is selling insurance, it’s probably as worthless as those “pay for these extra legroom seats that we can’t promise you can sit in” fees.

    1. Hi according to Wkipedia Allianz is a German (hence the spelling) financial services company, and in 2010 was the 12th largest Financial Services Group in the world.

    2. Re: Allianz. What is that? Teenybopper netspeak??!

      Nope. Allianz owns PIMCO where the 2 famous co-CIOs (Bill Gross and Mohammed El-Arian) work. PIMCO overseas more than 1.7 Trillion Dollars of investments. It is the world’s largest bond investor.

    3. “I have a hard time taking a company seriously that calls itself Allianz. What is that? Teenybopper netspeak??!”

      “Allianz” is simply the German word for “alliance”. They’ve been in business since the 1800s. I recommend taking them seriously, as they are a serious multinational corporation.

  4. I’m assuming he went on the trip with his wife. Was she not also insured? Surely if that was the case, the death of a parent would be a covered event, no? But then again, I rolled my eyes as soon as I got to the word “assumed”… in this sentence: “They had to fly back to Pennsylvania immediately, and they ASSUMED that
    since they’d purchased an Allianz policy through Delta Air Lines…” Really? The OP couldn’t spare 10 minutes to phone up the insurance company to verify exactly what would / wouldn’t be covered?

    But seriously. I’d like the details of whether his wife was on the policy…

    1. I don’t think the issue was being covered.  The response from the company does state they would be covered if they had just purchased the return trip with cash, not miles.

    2. When an immediate family member dies, spending 10 minutes to call the insurance company is usually the last thing on ones mind.  Getting back and making funeral arrangements, etc. seem to take over.

      1. I agree that you’d be in a severely agitated mental state. But in the scheme of things, is 10 extra minutes going to really matter? There’s not much you can do until you get home anyway… I just know that if it were me, and it was a matter of spending thousands vs. a 10 minute phone call, I’d call for my own peace of mind. In a time of crisis, just one less thing to worry about…

      2. Hey Emanon, could the OP and wife simply have gone to the airport and plead mercy STANDBY status due to death in the family? I can’t see what they had to lose.The ~$3.5K figure sloshed around here is higher than 2 Y class o/w fares and all they had to do is pay the difference between the fare they already held (for original return trip).

        In other words, why call when you already have a ticket (or a different day). Just go to airport and start pleading.

    3. If I understood the letter correctly, the loss was covered (he got the unused portion of his trip refunded). What was not covered, was his emergency transportation home.

      It would have been covered had he paid for it using cash, but he instead paid with miles, and the insurance company used that reason to deny his claim. 

      Not voicing an opinion on whether or not the miles should have been reimbursed, assuming that’s even possible. Just trying to relate my understanding of the events because the writeup was not super clear on what was in dispute.

      Hopefully this doesn’t violate the new anti-flaming policy, but I do want to register the observation that sometimes Chris, a professional writer, could do a lot better job in clearly summarizing the dispute in these blog posts. 

      1. There must be something else to the story. If all we’re talking about is whether the insurance will cover his miles, how did he come up with the exact figure of $3,468? Is that what he would’ve had to pay in cash to change his tickets? I can see the dilemma of the insurance company here. Miles aren’t created equal. 25K miles might be cashed in for a ticket worth $79 or a ticket worth $500… I’m sticking with my initial gut reaction. Had it been me, I would’ve called the insurance co. first to see what they had to say. In the end, I might have ignored them and went ahead and did my own thing, but at least I’d know the bottom-line cost…

        1. I think “call the insurance company before you take any action if you know you’re going to be filing a claim” is one of those life lessons that gets learned through experience. I agree that one should always call, but I also think that most people don’t realize how helpful it is until they get burned once. 

          I wonder if LW wasn’t thinking something along the lines of, “Oh, this is a good opportunity to turn some miles into cash.”

          1. There are no facts or innuendos to support even a musing that he say his mother in laws death as an opportunity to make money, especially as the claim is for the return of miles, not the cash value of the miles.

      1. “I’d like the details of whether his wife was on the policy..” can be interpreted to mean if travel insurance was also bought for her.
        Most probably, yes.

  5. If they would have paid for the flight if he called them first, they should cover the miles. I am not sure about the additional hotels/meals. How did those expenses get incurred?

    I agree that anyone that has to make a cliam should call the insurance company first to get an idea of the claims process.

  6. I can see where Allianz is coming from.  They are correct; if he had called, they would have told him to simply pay for the return trip home, and then there would be a receipt for an amount they could simply cut him a check for.  How can they “reimburse” his FF miles?  Yes, you can buy FF miles, but they are so costly when purchased “retail”, that they usually exceed what it would have cost to simply buy the ticket.  (This is by design, of course.)  And they can’t cut him a check for the ticket either because they haven’t the least clue what the ticket would have cost.  The only compromise I can that I can think of would be to cut him a check for what a coach-class, standard restricted-fare change fee would have been, if he had paid it.

    Trip insurance does commonly have coverage provisions on FF miles; they refer to “re-bank” fees if you have to cancel part/all of the trip outright.  Nothing covers paying for miles you actually use on a flight you take.

    Also, I’m not sure why he wants them to cover his hotel and rental car.  He did arrive, he did stay in the hotel and rent the car (if only for a little while)… why does he want to be paid for accomodations/transportation he used before receiving the bad news.  (I’m guessing that’s what he’s looking for, based on the claim denial; the story’s a little vague on that point.)

    1. Yeah, I was a little unclear on that one, too. From the Allianz letter, it seemed like they compensated him for the unused portion of his trip, but not for his emergency transportation home. 

    2. How can they “reimburse” his FF miles?  Yes, you can buy FF miles, but they are so costly when purchased “retail”, that they usually exceed what it would have cost to simply buy the ticket.

      A one-way domestic award ticket on Delta requires between 12,500 (min) and 30,000 (max) miles.

      Worst case, the OP’s used 60,000 (2 x 30,000) miles for their return trip.  One can buy 60,000 miles from Delta for $2,100.

      When I check last-minute one-way fares from PDX to PHL on Delta, I see that they cost about $800 each ($1,600 for 2 pax).  

      But the insurer isn’t arguing that they should only be on the hook for $1600 in airfare (instead of $2100).  They are arguing they should be on the hook for $0 in airfare.  Which is unreasonable.

      It’s not clear what the $3,468 in “additional expenses” is for, but that almost certainly reflects much more than 2 days of hotel and car expenses (even if we subtracted $2,100 for mileage reimbursement).

      1. Before you can ask “HOW”, you need to answer first whether they “SHOULD” reimburse mileage points. The latter must  be resolved first.

        I saw this exclusion on most Allianz policies:

        If You used frequent traveler awards (frequent flyers miles
        or hotel rewards) for any part of a Trip, the Company will
        pay the fees incurred by You for re-depositing those
        awards in Your account if the Trip is canceled for any of the

        It looks like Allianz is simply doing just what it said it would do.

        1. I’m looking at Allianz’s plans for Pennsylvania residents (where the OP appears to be from according to the story) and those look different.

          The Basic Plan makes no mention whatsoever of Frequent Traveler awards.

          The Classic and Deluxe Plans don’t mention Frequent Traveler awards in the context of Interruption Protection (which is what the OP is claiming).  It is only mentioned in the context of Trip Cancellation.

          Frequent traveler/Loyalty plan coverage

          When it applies

          You have to re-deposit points in your frequent traveler or loyalty program because  your trip is  canceled  for  one  of  the  covered  reasons listed under trip cancellation coverage.

          I wouldn’t interpret the absence of any language addressing the use of miles during a trip interruption as an “exclusion.”

          1. Michael, you need to be careful.
            The policies sold through airline portals are not necessarily the same as those sold on the insurance providers or even OTA websites.

            It’s like buying a mattress. Different models found depending where you buy them.

          2. Don’t take my word for it.

            Go to and select an itinerary from PHL to PDX.  You can enter bogus passenger information and dates.

            When you get to the payment page click on “Learn More” in the “Add Trip Protector” section.

            Select “terms, conditions, and exclusions” and choose “Pennsylvania”  

            You will get a watered-down version of the Basic Plan, which makes no references whatsoever to “frequent traveler awards” or even the word “frequent.”

            Here is the direct link to the contract for that plan:


          3. I see your copy. But it still requires REDEPOSIT of mileage. It does not say REIMBURSEMENT of cost paid for mileage or reimbursement of the mileage itself.

            Bottom line, they told the OP and Elliott that the plan bought by the OP requires redepositing of FQTV miles so unless the OP can show his has a different policy, then Allianz wins this point.

      2. What is the $ value of Delta miles? $35/1k miles if you buy miles (per your example). $10/1k miles if you redeem miles toward a ticket purchase (as a Delta cardholder). Seems to me Delta could make a good good case to give back $600 for 60k miles used, as that’s what they would have given him in ticket credit.

      3.  They are arguing they are on the hook for $0 because the OP didn’t actually pay for those tickets.  There is simply nothing to reimburse him for.  It was his choice to use his promotional (free) airline miles instead of paying in a way that was reimbursable by the insurance company.  For trip interruption, insurance companies reimburse expenses, not “worth” or “value.”

        For reference (not that it matters in this case), if the tickets cost 60,000 miles, those miles had a wholesale cost (charged to Delta marketing or his credit card bank, or whatever means he picked them up) of about $500-$600.  (As in, when the miles were sitting in his account, the FF program had a $500-$600 debt recorded on the books.)

        The idea that the insurance company is going to pay $1,200 (much less $1,600 or more) for something with a wholesale cost of $500-600 that the policyholder almost certainly got for $0 is simply not going to happen.

        1.  It is highly unlikely that the insurance company is going to pay 3 1/2 cents for miles.  That’s the, for lack of a better word, “retail” amount.  As a merchant, it would purchase miles at a substantively lower price.

  7. Chris. I got lost in the story. What was his $3468 claim for? The insurance statement would make me believe that he suffered no out of pocket expenses from either the hotel or rental car company beyond the time he used their products. He also had no out of pocket expense getting home because he used miles.

    Is he looking for the insurance company to pay for what he used so the trip cost him nothing? Normally you can’t file a travel insurance claim for something that cost you nothing.

  8. In most cases, purchasing insurance from a travel supplier isn’t a good idea, because if the supplier goes belly up, so does the insurance. However, I’m puzzled that any travel insurance product wouldn’t cover a Mother in Law, except in cases where a preexisting condition could be an issue.

      1. But the insurance policy offered by Delta is not the same – far more restrictive than going to Allianz and just purchasing an insurance policy there.  And you never purchase the insurance that is OFFERED by the one you are insuring against.

  9. I’m confused.  Did they deny the airline ticket claim because it was not prepaid or because he used miles.  Or did they claim it was not prepaid because he used miles?  In any event, what a crock and shame on Delta.  I am now happy that I use a miles earning credit card that is not affiliated with any airline.  I make the reservation myself with my credit card and as soon as it appears on my bill, I call the  credit card folks and they credit my card account with the cost of the tickets.  I have a receipt for payment and a record of the charge.  I “assume” that would work in the event of an interrupted/cancelled trip.  But who knows what other loophole these insurance companies might find.

      1. Tony – instead of aggressively questioning the OP  “What exactly did Delta do or didn’t do that they should be ashamed of?”…..why dont you instead, nicely and with tact and social skills, just comment on why YOU disagree and feel that Delta should ” not be ashamed” in this circumstance.  The OP gave an opinion, and now you have the chance to reply with your opinion. 

        1. Why is ok for anyone to aggressive denounce an airline is they do not say what the airline did or did not do?

          Also, why should I take political correctness lessons from someone names commentfromme ???

        2. I have an opinion regarding whether TonyA should be allowed to ask a question, or whether his only option here is to “reply with [his] opinion”. My opinion is that that is nonsense.

        3. But DELTA has nothing to do in this situation.  This was an insurance claim he failed to follow the correct procedure on, and the insurance company is denying the claim – which is normal if you don’t follow the rules.

          1. Michael, I think that is a question for the OP and not Linda.
            We have no clue what policy he bought. All of use are referring to different types of policies sold by Allianz (new brandname of Access America). There are so many versions out there.

            Allianz already said the policy he bought required redepositing of points. Many here even believe that redepositing is SOP for travel insurance. Unless the OP pulls out his policy how can we refute that?

            If I were the OP I would lookup the policy I bought. Heck, if that provision ain’t there then I’d go back and ask for reimbursement based on that fact.

          2. We have no clue what policy he bought.

            Then why is anyone making bold statements about the OP not following rules? 

            If someone doesn’t know, then it’s irresponsible to boldly take sides and make accusations. 

            We do know the OP bought their policy from

            I’ve checked policies from for a bunch of different states — including Pennsylvania (where the OP’s appear to be from) — and NONE of them refers to frequent flyer miles.

            Can you find ANY Allianz policy sold through that does?

        4.  It seems like Tony was actually questioning a comment made by pradcliffe.  It appears to me to be a reasonable question particularly since Delta doesn’t seem involved in this transaction except tangentially.

  10. “$3,468 in additional expenses that Allianz refused to cover.”  I’d like to better understand what that $3,468 consisted of? Allianz says that the policy covers “extra out of pocket costs for reasonable transportation expenses to return home”.  If that money wasn’t spent on transportation home, what was it spent on?  There might be more of a middle ground here if we understood the breakout of the money he is requesting as a claim.

  11. Since Allianz are being so disgusting about this, is it worth approaching Delta directly? They may be able to exercise some discretion in view of the fact this poor man has been shafted by his insurers.

    1. For what, though?  He changed his flight and chose to use miles to do so – what is Delta supposed to do in that case?  In essence, he did get what he “paid” for, so what is Delta going to do?  Plus the fact that he had insurance – they’ll tell him to go back to his provider.

      1. what is Delta supposed to do in that case?

        Delta sold the insurance and presumably earned a commission.  It’s reasonable to expect them to understand the terms of the insurance they sold as well as the implications when their client needs to make changes to their insured itinerary for a covered reason.  And it’s reasonable to ask them to advocate on behalf of their client.

        1.  Delta’s responsibility is to TAKE CARE OF THEIR CUSTOMER.
          In that respect, they did. They took the OP and his wife to PA asap so they can grieve with the rest of the family.
          The one giving the OP a hard time is Allianz. That’s the problem we are trying to solve.

  12. This is fairly common practice in the insurance business. The fact of the matter is if the hotel and car were just reservations, they could be cancelled, and insurance would “usually” pay any cancellation penalties. As for the airline, 1. Delta would have most likely waived any change fees given the circumstances, and 2. If they didn’t the insurance would have reimbursed those change fees. As it stands, he has no receipts showing any dollar value, so there is really nothing to reimburse.

  13. Chris, I’d like to offer you a suggestion. Skimming through the comments, I’m noticing a lot of confusion about the facts of the dispute. Any chance on future posts you could highlight a summary of the dispute? Something like: 
    Background: LW had a family emergency on day 2 of his 14 day trip and had to interrupt his trip and fly home. His trip was covered by a [policy type] policy from Allianz, a regulated insurance underwriter. LW filed a claim for the unused portion of his trip plus the cost of returning home early, which he paid for using frequent flier miles.

    What LW expected to happen: Allianz to reimburse him for his loss, the unused portion of the trip plus the cost of his emergency transportation home.

    What happened instead: Allianz covered the unused portion of his trip, but denied the emergency transportation home due to his having paid for it with miles. The contract language on this point is ambiguous, and Allianz’s interpretation is that they don’t reimburse miles.

    Current status of the dispute: LW’s claim and appeal were denied. I (you) reached out to Allianz and received the same denial. 

    I think something like this would alleviate a lot of confusion.

  14. The title of the article really doesn’t address what happened and is misleading, isn’t it?.  Sadly the OP didn’t read his policy and note the contact number to use BEFORE making any changes to the started travel.  I only sell travel insurance that offers clients 24/7 assistance once they start on their trip.    That is part of the service of the coverage and it would have saved him a lot of money and headache during an emotional time when you really are not thinking clearly.  I am not a fan of insurance companies and I always tell clients that the last thing the insurance company wants to do is pay out, so be sure you speak with them BEFORE purchasing and before making any changes once you buy the coverage.

  15. Number one rule of making claims on insurance policies is to contact the insurance company as soon as possible, especially if you have not yet incurred the costs that you expect to be covered. I needed medical attention while on vacation in Cuba. The doctor kept insisting I just purchase the medication prior to contacting Blue Cross, which I refused. In doing so I saved myself over $100 that may not have been covered had I not contacted Blue Cross prior to getting the medicine. $100 isn’t a lot, but for a student, it felt great getting that refund cheque.

  16. I simply can’t believe Allianz is taking the stance they’re taking.  Having had a family member out of town when a loved one died, the LAST thing you think of is, “Gee, I should probably call my insurance company”.  Really?  They let their feelings get hurt because the OP didn’t call them first?

    As far as the miles, Delta has set a monetary value on their miles and it’s plainly visible on their website for those who wish to buy miles to get to a “freebie”.  No mystery there.

    And I can see a rental car being part of the equation to get home.  As @Raven_Altosk:disqus pointed out, a walk up fare can be extreme.  Sometimes, it’s cheaper to fly out of another airport and the OP might have chosen to do just that.  Have you ever seen “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”?  Any port in the storm when you want to get home in a hurry.

    Allianz dropped the ball on this one and this is going to be a company I’ll NEVER do business with.

    1. If you have taken out travel insurance, why wouldn’t they be the first ones to call?  Would you start making repairs to your damaged house before calling your homeowerns insuance company? 

          1. Why wow?  The OP purchased insurance to cover his travels just like you purchase insurance to cover your home.  Both are a business deal and both have the same steps for being utitlized. A loss to either is emotional but you don’t proceed to use the coverage without making a call to the company.  Pretty straight forward.

      1. Not analogous.  You wouldn’t repair your damaged house in the midst of a storm or a fire.  But you would expect to be able to evacuate and take shelter elsewhere and later seek reimbursement for that without being taken to task for not calling the insurer first.

        Where does it state in Allianz’s contract that the policy holder should call them first if the trip is interrupted for a covered reason?

        It does state this:
        You need  to  contact  your travel  suppliers within  72  hours  of  canceling  or interrupting your trip to qualify for the largest reimbursement possible

        and this:

        You have  90  days from the  date  of  your loss to  submit  your claim to us,  except  as  otherwise provided by law.

        1. I did have to start repairs immediately…within minutes of a fire being put out at my house.  I called my insurance agent first for what we could or couldn’t do.  You can’t go out and expect cost to be covered.  Car damaged?  You can’t go get a rental car without your insurance company handling it as they have speical contracts.  Sorry, the the analogy stands.

          1. If the fire department left and you were lucky enough to have a habitable home to return to, then what else was there to do?

            If a close family member dies and you are 2500+ miles away and desperate to catch the next flight out, that’s a completely different dynamic.

          2. If you have insurance, your first call should be to them.  BTW, the firepeople are the ones who actually started covering up the roof for us as the rain was about to start which would have caused us more problems…and it wasnt their job to do so, but that is our volunteer firefighters who are fabulous!.  I was on the phone with my agent while they were getting the fire out finding out what I needed to handle on our end to meet our immediate needs.  I didn’t assume anything.

          3. I forgot to add, what could they do after the death that an immediate call to their insurance company wouldn’t have helped them?  The OP made a mistake in how he handled his needs.

          4. We don’t know the precise timeline, but 30 minutes of hold time on the phone could easily result in a missed flight and a journey prolonged by many hours.

            Besides, anything said on the phone would be “he said / she said” anyway.  

            Would you support the OP if they called ahead and paid with cash instead of miles for their return fare as directed, and then Allianz rejected their claim on other grounds, and they lost their cash AND their miles too? 

            As Tony alludes to, Allianz could easily try to reject almost any death claim on pre-existing condition grounds — any medical condition that the Mother-in-law may have had with the benefit of hindsight in the previous 120 days.  

            The cost of the trip was over $3,000, which means the OP wasn’t even eligible for a pre-existing condition waiver.


          5. You aren’t getting the reason for the call Michael.  They assist with the flights and approve them.  You can’t just get any priced ticket to get home without their approval.  Just like dealing with your car insurance company.  You can’t rent any car while your car is out of commission without going through your insurance company first and expect to get it paid for.

      2. If a tree fell through my roof and my house was now flooding, you bet I would cover the hole and stop the flooding before calling my insurance company.

          1. But that’s a red herring.  The OP wasn’t denied because he didn’t call the insurance company.  The insurance company denied his claim because it simply wasn’t coverable under the contract.  Nowhere does it suggest that he needed preapproval to pay cash for this return ticket.

          2. Carver, you don’t go out and book a suite at a 5 star hotel if you have to evacuate your home and expect the insurance company to cover it, do you?  They have resources for getting a lower rate and you call them first to find out what you need to do.  Often the insurance company handles the needed emergency return flight, so yes, his claim appears to be denied because he assumed something that possibly he shoulnd’t have.  Bottom line is that he took out the coverage and the insurance company should have been immediately called.  I just traveled out of the country.  I contacted my medical insurance company and they won’t pay for just any thing without a call to them first.  Common insurance practice.

    2.  Helping you get home is one of the services you are paying the insurance company to provide.  Yes, the first thing you should do is call them.  They employ travel agents that will take care of booking you new transportation home by any means that would be available to any travel agent.

      The insurance company certainly won’t pay the retail cost of miles.  Miles purchased directly from the airline, if you purchase an entire trip’s worth, cost FAR more than purchasing a ticket outright.  (And they also cost far more than what Delta charges for them wholesale as part of promotions (flights, credit cards, cereal boxtops, whatever), where the cost is a cent or less.)  As you mentioned, retail miles are meant to top off your account, not stock it to begin with  There’s zero chance Allianz will do so for miles that almost certainly the OP received for free.  Free travel arrangements aren’t ever reimbursable, no matter what the value was to you.

      No insurance company would have paid for those miles.

      It doesn’t help that he’s also asking for reimbursement for his hotel and rental car, despite the fact that those were vacation expenses, and not a result of his emergency trip home.

  17. Is there a way of getting a better break down of the expenses? I have Allianz for sale in the office. What were the actual losses that the claim was based upon?  Free tickets are free, so they can not be covered. Allianz did say that they would cover the return air tickets and everything that was pre-paid and to re-imburse the cost of milage correction. There are several different Allianz policies and that too was not described. The Classic Plan covers trip interruption; that’s the claim that is described. Did he have that or the Basic plan? I agree that it is important to talk to somebody about the coverage before purchasing it, but that cannot happen when using a computer as your booking tool unless you take time to read 10 pages of small print. It sounds that Allianz is correct based upon given facts.

  18. Count me as one of those who doesn’t understand exactly what the OP is claiming here. I assume, Chris, that you do,else would you try to mediate his claim. Your comment above is not suifficiently enlightening on ths point.

  19. Seems to me that the miles DO have a cash value, seeing as you can BUY miles directly from the airline. I would submit to the insurance company the cost of reimbursing your account the cost of the airline miles to your account. If they don’t reimburse you first contact your state insurance commissioner and then perhaps a lawyer to write a demand letter then perhaps a small claims court case if nothing is accomplished. 

    1. What does the policy say?  Did the OP pay for those miles?  If the OP earned them, there is no cash value and that is why no coverage.  Free is free and usually isn’t insurable in the amount you declare for coverage. 

      The OP obviously couldn’t find ff space to fly home on, which is an issue you have to consider when using ff miles for a ticket in case of an emergency change.  My flight got canceled a few summers ago when I was using miles and it would be 48 hours before they could get me any flight as it was peak travel season if I wanted to continue using the miles.  Lots to think about when you use these miles as space is limited.

      1. Bodega, the OP could have used the Delta’s Pay with Miles option instead of money.

        There are a lot of things we don’t know at this point. Without more details, we are just spinning our wheels, some accusing the insurance and airline of bad things.

        1. Yes, we don’t know except you and I know that if it was just plain award miles, not purchased, those are not insurable for repayment, except to put them back into your account,as that is a ‘free ticket’, with no value. 

          1. I thought the purpose of insurance was to put someone back into the position they were in before the insured event. If it says they will be reimbursed for airfare they should reimburse him miles. If that means they have to purchase miles on the open market, that’s their problem and should reimburse him. 

          2. A free ticket has no insurable value.  You have to have a value to get insurance on it.  Now if he had purchased miles to travel, that would be a declared value.  Same with an earned free night at a hotel, a rental car. 

  20. I’m not saying travel insurance doesn’t have its place, but it is something I have never bothered with.  If I feel that there is a chance my travel could be interrupted, I book flexible tickets/accommodations or ensure the trip is covered by a fair cancellation policy.  It just seems to me like travel insurance (like every other kind of insurance) looks for any loophole not to pay out and has always seemed like kind of a ripoff to me.  Of course, I don’t tend to take really expensive trips, either, and I’m sure that is a factor.

  21. Chris,
    Maybe I’m a little confused, but where does the total for $3,468 come from?
    Hotel 1 Night – $120?
    Meal 1 – $50?
    Flight purchased with Miles – $0?

    From what the insurance company has said, they will cover any unused prepaid expenses.  So where does the rest of that cost come from?

  22. I’m not familiar with what travel insurance typically covers for emergency costs.   The trip back was apparently going to be covered in this case except for the contention over the OP paying with miles.  But does the coverage stop once you hit the destination airport?  Or would it cover a rental car or other transit to get to the final destination?  

    I guess what is confusing me is whether the car, hotel and food he’s asking for was part of the original vacation, or costs of the emergency return?

    1. You have to insure the value of the trip.  The air had no cost, so this is not correct on your part that ‘trip; was fully covered.  Now due to the circumstance, had the OP call the insurance company FIRST, he would have had assistance with the new air but since he took it upon himself to handle the new arrangements without the insurance company’s approval, he is SOL, far, unless something Chris does is able to change it.

      1. I got all that.  But the emergency return isn’t a part of the original trip and that would normally have been covered in this case.  So, is it just the airfare?  Or would they have been entitled to meals on the trip back?  Transportation back to their house from the airport?  

        The letter from the insurance company suggests the meals, etc. may have been costs from the original trip, but I’m wondering if they could actually be costs incurred during the return.  It doesn’t sound impossible some related expenses to the flight home might be covered. That would make the story less confusing because the alternative makes it sound like the OP wants expenses covered for the portion of the trip that occurred prior to the emergency which doesn’t make much sense.

        1.  @bodega3:disqus @Joe_D_Messina:disqus
          There is something else that needs to be clarified.
          If the OP bought his ORIGINAL tickets with Frequent Flyer or AWARD points, the maximum trip interruption coverage is only $500 (for domestic flights).

          The article says the OP used frequent flyer miles to CHANGE his ticket but we have no idea if the original tickets were paid with points or money. If they were originally AWARD tickets, then most of the discussion here is moot.

  23. @elliottc:disqus

    If Allianz has carved out an exclusion or limitation in its policies:

    If You used frequent traveler awards (frequent flyers miles or hotel rewards) for any part of a Trip, the Company will pay the fees incurred by You for re-depositing those awards in Your account if the Trip is canceled for any of the reasons under TRIP CANCELLATION AND INTERRUPTION PROTECTION.

    and Allianz agreed to pay unused parts of his prepaid travel expenses (if any):

    Under the terms of Mr. Puskaric’s travel insurance policy, he was
    covered for the unused part of his prepaid travel expenses and the extra
    out of pocket costs for reasonable transportation expenses to return
    home if he needed to interrupt his trip.

    then, what other reimbursable costs are you or the OP fighting for?

    I hate to bring this up, but if Allianz really wanted to play hardball with you guys they could have brought up the mother of all exclusions – PREEXISTING CONDITIONS. Unless the OP had or bought a waiver from preexisting conditions, then the insurance company CAN (or MAY) claim that the death of the mother in-law was due to a preexisting condition if she was already sick of something.

    True, you really need to question why one is buying travel insurance for.

      1.  Mike you may have a point. But the amount he is asking is so high that it makes the claim look incredulous. Maybe this guy is traveling first class. Until we get more info, it’s hard to make sense of what happened and why it was that expensive. ~$3500 is about 350,000 Miles with Delta pay with miles. That’s a lot of miles! Do we know the max amount his trip was insured for? Too many unknowns.

      2.  Mike, I went back to and tried several combinations. Here is what I found out. If you add a car and hotel, the insurance seems to be only for the airfare and up to maximum of $3K. So how could the OP insure the cost of his car and hotel using the site? In order for Allianz to pay you need to insure TOTAL trip cost.

        So I followed Delta’s link to
        There you can get Single Trip Coverage up to $10K. In other words you can easily insure your TOTAL trip (not just airfare).
        But there is a kicker!
        If you buy your airline tickets using Delta Skymiles, you only qualify for Frequent Flyer Trip Insurance which has a maximum coverage for Trip Interruption of $500 for domestic flights. Also, you cannot add your car and hotel since the maximum cancellation coverage is only $300.

        Furthermore, Allianz has 2 sets of policies. One with the Frequent Flier miles re-deposit provision and one without it (meaning its quiet). The default policy has the Frequent Flyer clause.

        So here is the bottom line. If the OP bought his ORIGINAL tickets with Skymiles, then re-deposit clause applies.  If the OP bought his ORIGINAL roundtrip tickets with money and used the Delta/Allianz site, then it is likely his policy will not have any words referencing Frequent Flier Miles.

        But the OP is not disputing reimbursement of this original ticket. After all he got to use them. He is disputing reimbursement of a Trip Interruption Benefit:

        Reasonable transportation expenses for getting to your final destination or a place where you can continue your trip,
        (subject to the limits and coverage of the OP’s specific plan).

        If the OP simply bought the cheapest economy class ticket available to get back  to PA, then I don’t think there would be any argument. Note that if he did this the unused part of the OLD ticket would remain UNUSED and (IMO) all he needs to do is assign his rights to it to Allianz.
        The only obligation of the OP is:
        You need to contact your travel suppliers within 72 hours of canceling or interrupting your trip to qualify for the largest reimbursement possible. If you notify your suppliers later and get a smaller refund, we will not cover the difference.
        This means ALL HE NEED TO DO WAS CANCEL HIS RETURN FLIGHT ASAP because that is how you get the maximum refund.

        By CHANGING his return flight and paying for the difference in mileage points he entered a very fuzzy and uncharted territory (IMO). Why? Because the insurance firm can claim the OP voluntarily used his FREE miles to change his travel plans. Unless he actually BOUGHT THE MILES WITH MONEY, they can argue forever about the out-of-pocket cost to reimburse.

        Then, I emphasize re-deposit of miles is NOT in issue since he did NOT lose Free Miles on his original ticket. There is nothing to re-deposit (even with the changed flight).  The issue is, since he used FQTV miles to change his return flight ticket, the insurance company says it costs nothing – it was FREE.
        In other words, it is as if he never got any Trip Interruption benefits. 🙁 The OP got screwed (IMO).

        If the OP does not agree, then he has to go through arbitration:

        Resolving disputes
        If you disagree with our decision about a claim, you can request to go to arbitration through the American Arbitration Association. If we agree, you can submit a dispute to desk arbitration, as long
        – you submit it at least 60 days, but no more than three years, after you’ve filed your entire claim with us, and
        – it complies with the American Arbitration Association’s rules at the time you submit it.

        1. Thanks for digging and discovering all that.


          The only obligation of the OP is: You need to contact your travel suppliers within 72 hours of canceling or interrupting your trip to qualify for the largest reimbursement possible.

          I saw that too, and it makes me wonder: if you purchase travel insurance through Delta, is that not visible to any Delta ticket agent?  Is there not some expectation that they are aware of and understand the terms of the insurance that they sold?  And that they give the passenger proper advice once they are contacted and notified that a trip is being interrupted for a likely covered reason?

          1. The Delta ticket AGENT has nothing to do with the travel insurance. These kind of peripheral add-ons are not part of a reservation. (Note: a hotel,car, and even cruise reservation can be part of a PNR.)

            Also, in my opinion, if you ask an airline employee any question about travel insurance, their response will be for you to contact your insurance provider directly.

            A trained brick and mortar agent will probably do more for the customer. First, they can help you choose. Then, if you have to file a claim, they can help you DOCUMENT the claim. There’s a ton of paperwork involved in a claim that goes beyond a simple e-ticket receipt (assuming the passenger even bothered to print that and keep a copy somewhere).

            Mike, I went to sleep last night thinking of this case. I woke this morning still thinking of this case. The sad reality (which this case brings to light) is we must be ready to SELF INSURE a big chunk of our travel plan. In my opinion, many of these travel insurance sold like candy on a checkout counter are not worth it. If you buy travel insurance, you need to do a lot of homework. THIS IS NOT A PLUG, but if you use those links (sponsors) on the side of Elliott’s blog, you will be a lot better off. Squaremouth’s FAQs section is excellent.

  24. The rental car was the one reserved for hi8s trip – not transportation home, and since the rental company only charged him for the two days he used, he’s not out any monies.  PLUS – when a policy (and that is true for MOST) states they do not cover your using mileage, then his decision NOT to call them and use his miles has no bearing – he failed to follow the rules of his purchase, and one phone call would have made that very clear – the loss is his, quite clearly.

  25. But this is not the standard policy – its the “insurance” offered by Delta when you buy a ticket – far more restrictive

  26. From reading the story, he’s claiming the cost of the trip, but he was only charged for the 2 days car rental he used, so no reason TO refund the balance.

  27. I have to agree with most of the posters that the story is totally confusing. I just re-read it 3 times and it looks like he was reimbursed for any prepaid hotel/travel, his rental car company only charged him for the days he used and he used miles, not cash for the flights home. This all sounds like a big scam. Why did he need to purchase new tickets home? Wouldn’t you just change the tickets you already have and pay the change fee (which would have been reimbursed by Allianz)? Where the heck did he come up with $3468 in ADDITIONAL expenses? How is that possible? The only additional expenses would be the flights home. And according to the insurance letter, looks like he was asking for additional hotel and meals. Meals? WTF?

    I wouldn’t trust anything he was claiming one bit. He wasn’t traveling from half a world away. I can’t imagine anyone coming up with $3468 in addtional expenses by coming home early.

  28. “Had Mr. Puskaric called us before he changed his plans, we would have
    advised him to pay for his flight change. We would have been happy to
    reimburse him for that out of pocket cost as well as the fee the airline
    might charge him to redeposit his frequent flyer miles.”

    To me, this sounds like the only reason Allianz is refusing to honor the claim is due to Mr. Puskaric’s oversight in failing to call them first.  He obviously had to have paid additional charges to return home – as they would have advised – so this seems to be nit-picking due to a technicality.  Who would think of calling the insurance carrier when he’s just been informed of a death in the family, and needs to make arrangements to return home immediately?

    1. If you have paid for travel insurance, you need their approval, no different than with any other insurance company.  What is so difficult to understand on this?  He took out coverage and they have the final say on what they will pay for.  He screwed up.

        1. Mike,

          I agree with you.  Knowing how insurance companies speak and write contracts, I would say that they aren’t requiring preapproval, but rather that the OP was not aware of the contractual requirements, i.e. cash is reimburseable, miles are not, and they would have advised him to use cash so that he would have received a cash reimbursement as well as the redeposit fee for the miles which would fully compensated the OP.

          1.  I also agree.

            It is WISE to call the insurance company but it is NOT REQUIRED.

            Their policy (those that I read) actually says that you need to call the TRAVEL SUPPLIER (and not them) so you can get the maximum possible REFUND due to cancellation of your travel plans.

          2. With insurance companies, one should never assume something is covered.  The OP made the decision to purchase the travel coverage, why wouldn’t he have called to see how to proceed with his emergency return?

          3. With regard to one-sided contracts, the consumer should not have to assume the existence of additional restrictions that are not spelled out in the contract.

            With regard to phone calls, without a recording a phone conversation is hearsay.  We’ve seen numerous cases where customers cited what they were told in phone conversations, and I don’t believe you generally give much weight to that.

          4. The travel insurance company we sell handles it all when you call them.  Part of their service that you are paying for and in an emergency you aren’t always thinking clearly so good to have that assistance. 

          5. Dubious.

            Allianz advertises the same thing.  But their actual contract language doesn’t mention to call them in this situation.  It states to contact the travel supplier.

            Only in certain medical scenarios (like finding a hospital or a doctor) does it advise to call them.

  29. So I’ve read this a couple of times and this is the conclusion I’ve come to.

    “Under the terms of Mr. Puskaric’s travel insurance policy, he was
    covered for the unused part of his prepaid travel expenses and the extra
    out of pocket costs for reasonable transportation expenses to return
    home if he needed to interrupt his trip.
    As the additional hotel and meal expenses he claimed were not prepaid expenses, we’re not able to reimburse him for those costs.”

    So it isn’t clear if the hotel room in Oregon was refunded by the hotel or not but if it wasn’t, Allianz would have covered it if he pre-paid the entire stay up front. Any other expenses incurred such as meals or transportation on the ground in PA were not prepaid and not eligible for reimbursement. It is clear in all the linked polices that prepaid expenses are reimbursable and non-prepaid are not.  Unless he has some receipts for pre-paid expenses that have yet to be refunded, he is out of luck.

    As for the airline miles being used to pay for the new flights? I am honestly puzzled why he just didn’t pay the change fee to move the tickets up and then go for reimbursement on that. It might be a gesture of good will if Allianz can work with Delta to restore his miles. But to give him actual spending cash? If that is what he wants, I say give him what it would cost to have changed the tickets. IIRC, it is $150 a ticket so $300 for the pair. I am sympathetic towards Mr. Puskaric and his wife. Losing a parent hurts a lot and your mind is never clear so it is understandable he wouldn’t think to call the insurance people. But like I said, my first thought wouldn’t have been to charge new tickets to miles but to change the existing flights and pay the fee. Maybe he forgot he had insurance and that is why he used miles? At any rate, I fear he is out of luck.

  30. @bodega3:disqus   
    I won’t play your game.  You call the insurance company BEFOREHAND.

    I didn’t think this was a game.  You put forward an assertion about the insurance contract:

    You can’t just get any priced ticket to get home without their approval.

    Yet you can’t show that the contract has any such requirement. What entitles you to impose your own external demands on insurance customers to go above and beyond the one-sided contract they already face?

      1. Indeed.  We don’t need to provide any proof, the OP is responsible for finding out BEFORE making return plans to know what he could or couldn’t do.  Interesting that details of the plan and a breakdown of the extra costs were not provided for the article.

        1. Are you really interested in helping the OP recover some money?  

          Or are you going out of your way to impose demands on the OP that have no foundation in the insurance contract?

          1. If would be nice if he was able to recoup some costs, but not sure he will as he basically screwed up by not calling and assuming which my point here is, NEVER assume anything with insurance companies.  They don’t want to pay out.

          2. Why would you assume that the insurance company would pay out if the customer called?

            Knowing that the insurance companies don’t want to pay out, even when there is no clear contract language to support their position, why would you defend the insurance company and blame and disparage the customer?

  31. I am requesting a fresh start to this case.

    I assume the OP made a “huge” claim for $3,468 (or something like that). To fully understand what he is claiming, can you please fill in the blanks for us. Here’s the relevant part of the Allianz claim form:

    Airfare $_______________
    Lodging $_______________
    Tour(s) $_______________
    Other (list below)
    ________________ $_______________

    Total Expenses $_______________
    Less refunds $_______________
    Total Claimed $_______________

    Also I have a few basic questions:
    (1) Was the ORIGINAL roundtrip ticket bought with Skymiles?
    (2) What was the insured (non-refundable) trip cost (total amount) of the policy?
    (3) If the original tickets were purchased with money, what did they cost?

    Thank you.

  32. Don’t purchase travel insurance from the travel provider.  Purchasing travel insurance from an independent source like squaremouth doesn’t guarantee that the travel policy will cover everything or your claim will be paid but you will know that the policy was written for a travel provider and is going to favor the travel provider.

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