Got a travel problem? Here’s how to make the impossible, possible

Got a travel problem? Here's how to make the impossible, possible.

Connie Matlin has a travel problem.

She wants to do the impossible: buy travel insurance for what she thinks is an uninsurable trip. “My family and I would like to travel to Europe this summer,” explains Matlin, a financial planner from Cleveland. “I want to purchase airfare as soon as possible to secure a good price, but I’m also nervous.”

That’s because her husband has cancer, and although he’s doing well, “it can change at any time.” Also, her elderly father has Parkinson’s disease, and his condition is unpredictable as well. Is there any way to buy travel insurance?

Have a travel problem?

Travel is rife with situations that seem hopeless — whether it be buying insurance when you have a preexisting medical condition, persuading a car rental company to reverse a damage claim or getting a refund for a nonrefundable airline ticket. But a closer look at each problem often reveals that with a little insider knowledge and a lot of persistence, the impossible is possible.

Can someone with a terminal illness buy insurance? “The short answer is, yes,” says Bob Chambers, head of operations at Generali Global Assistance, a travel insurance company.

“The big issue for consumers to be aware of is the notion of foreseeability,” Chambers says. “As long as the purchaser is medically able to travel at the time they buy the insurance and meet the purchase requirement for the preexisting condition waiver, we would afford coverage.”

In other words, the fact that someone is told they have a terminal illness would not prohibit them from buying coverage. As long as one is medically cleared to travel at the time they purchase the insurance, it’s fine. But if a family member’s death is imminent, you can’t buy coverage.

Ask questions

“Travelers worried about preexisting conditions or terminal illnesses should ask questions about coverage before they commit large amounts of money for travel arrangements,” Chambers says.

Another option for Matlin is a Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) policy, which only pays a percentage of the amount insured. (Generali’s policies reimburse 75 percent, but some go as low as 50 percent.) It would also cover an event such as an untimely death or a sudden cancellation. But that type of policy is more expensive — usually 9 to 11 percent of the trip cost.

Stan Sandberg — co-founder of TravelInsurance.com — says that, outside of CFAR coverage, the best way to know for sure whether a preexisting condition waiver would work in your situation is to consult an expert. “Because of the sensitivity, I strongly recommend speaking with a licensed agent,” he says.

Have a problem with your car rental?

But that’s hardly the only seemingly impossible travel scenario. For years, I’ve received complaints from readers about bills for damage to rental cars sent long after their vacations ended. Pay up, the letters demand, or we’ll report you to a credit agency, add you to our “Do Not Rent” list or take you to court. Simple questions about the damage are usually met with a restatement of the charges and new threats.

Take Jonathan Drew’s recent case. He rented an SUV from Budget for a day. Shortly after he picked up the car, the “check engine” light turned on. “I immediately called the local Budget office,” says Drew, who works for a college in Helena, Mont. “Budget’s agent told me to keep driving to my destination city and pick up another rental. I did as they instructed me.”

But after he returned the vehicle, Drew received a letter from PurCo, a third-party claims company used by car rental agencies, billing him for caked mud inside the engine compartment, which triggered the light.

What happened?

Drew was certain he hadn’t gone off-roading with the SUV, so he pursued his case, despite the fact that his rental agreement with Budget allowed the company to charge for the damages, whether he was responsible for them or not. He asked for more documents, including time-stamped and dated pictures of the damage, the rental agreements from previous and subsequent renters, a picture of the mileage indicator showing the mileage on the car when the damage was noted, an incident report and fleet utilization logs. He also contacted Budget’s executives.

Budget eventually dropped its claim against Drew, demonstrating the importance of persistence and patience in resolving your claim. But Drew also did the seemingly impossible, persuading a car rental company and a third-party claims manager, both with reputations for never changing their minds on damage claims, to reverse course.

What’s possible with your nonrefundable airline ticket?

All of which brings us to the single biggest impossibility in the travel industry: getting a refund on a nonrefundable airline ticket. It’s an issue I get complaints about every day — now more than ever since airlines began selling “basic” tickets that can’t be changed. (Here’s my article on the topic)

Sunita Gupta contacted me recently after she had to cancel a Virgin Atlantic flight from Philadelphia to New Delhi. “About 12 hours before the flight, my husband was admitted to the emergency room with severe stomach pains,” she explains. The diagnosis: a small bowel obstruction that required two days of hospitalization, meaning he would miss the flight.

Gupta called her online travel agency, CheapOair.com, to recover as much of her ticket cost as possible. The agency offered her two unappealing choices: Either pay another $850 and use the ticket credits within the next two months or cancel her trip and lose everything. But something had gotten lost in translation between the online agency and the airline. In fact, airlines routinely bend their own refund rules when someone is hospitalized. I contacted Virgin Atlantic and CheapOair, and eventually, Gupta received a refund for her tickets, minus a somewhat less painful $400 cancellation fee imposed by the airline.

The travel industry loves to say “no” these days, but that’s not always the final answer. If you have a travel problem and know when and how to push back, you can turn the “no” into a “yes.”

Share this story
Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook

Underwritten by

This site 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.

This site 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.

This site 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.

This site 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.

This site 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.

This site is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

This site 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.

This site 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.

This site is underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

This site 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.

This site is underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

This site 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.

This site 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.

This site 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.

This site 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.

This site is underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

This site 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.

This site 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.

This site 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.

This site 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.