If your flight is canceled the airline owes you a refund, not Trip Mate

You may have heard the idiomatic expression, “barking up the wrong tree.” That gives you an idea of the problem Gail Mayer faced as she waged an unsuccessful fight with the insurance company Trip Mate, over recovering her lost airline tickets.

The problem was not what she asked for but rather whom she was asking.

Mayer and a friend used an online travel agency to buy tickets From New York to Florida on United Airlines. They were headed for a reunion with old friends. It was supposed to be a three-day trip.

“When the airline tickets were purchased on CheapOair, travel insurance was offered. Due to upstate New York weather conditions we felt it was a good precaution. If it weren’t for Rochester weather, we wouldn’t have bothered with the insurance,” says Mayer.

Her concern was justified. Their departure flight was canceled by United because of weather. She and her friend were issued new tickets for a flight scheduled to leave two days later. Weather caused the cancellation of the second flight as well. They never made it to the reunion.

Mayer contacted Trip Mate, the travel insurance provider, asking for a refund of the $678 she and her friend paid for the tickets for the cancelled flights. To her surprise, Trip Mate denied her claim. She went back and forth with the insurance company through a series of letters. The company held firm in its position. So she contacted us.

Trip insurance can be a big help when problems arise after making expensive travel plans. It can save the day, as Christopher Elliott points out in this recent article. He also notes that there are a lot of misconceptions about what the insurance covers.

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Mayer was laboring under one of those misconceptions. Our advocate reviewed her documents and spotted the problem. Because Mayer’s flights were canceled by the airline as a result of weather conditions, this would not be something the insurance company would refund. Instead, any refund would have to come from the airline.

Before going to bat for her, our advocate asked Mayer to first make an official written request to United to refund the tickets. He advised her to include in her comments that the flights were canceled because of weather and never rebooked.

She followed his advice, and it worked. A few days later she wrote back.

“I can’t believe it,” she told us. “All this time arguing with Trip Mate and it was as simple as contacting the airline. There is no way this would have been accomplished without your direction and assistance. I can’t thank you enough.”

We’re happy that this problem was solved. In addition, we can all learn from her experience. Mayer had a valid claim but was asking the wrong party to cover it. So if all the barking isn’t getting any results, you need to make sure it’s the right tree.

Abe Wischnia

Abe started his working career as a television news reporter and newscaster before moving to corporate communications and investor relations. Now retired and having learned useful tips from Elliott.org, one of his volunteer activities is writing for us. Read more of Abe's stories here.

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