Meet the underwriters: TripInsurance.com

Note: The following post is part of our ongoing series, “Meet the underwriters,” in which I introduce you to the companies that support the consumer advocacy on this site. We’re very grateful to them, and I hope you will show your support by giving them your business.

TripInsurance.com was launched in 2011 as a new travel insurance comparison site, but with a few new twists. First, unlike other comparison websites, TripInsurance.com policies are only available at the site and have been designed exclusively for the site, providing three levels of protection (Good, Better and Best) directly from some of the largest travel insurance underwriters in the country. I asked Dan Skilken, the company’s president and chief executive, to explain how TripInsurance.com works.

How is TripInsurance.com different from other travel insurance sites?

First, we are not just about selling travel insurance. We hope to add value to the traveler and his or her travel experience, not only with insurance, but with relevant travel information to assure the best possible trip. Second, we truly believe that travel insurance should be part of everyone’s travel plans, and we have made the selection and purchase process as easy as possible. Third, we have accomplished all this with a substantial cost savings by offering products directly to the consumer, eliminating many of the additional costs built into plans offered by travel agents and other comparison websites.

How are travel insurance products usually packaged and sold?

Generally speaking, travel insurance products today are sold through multiple channels, including Administrators, or General Agents and travel agents. Any product from a specific company with a specific name will always be the same. No matter whom you buy these policies from, the coverage and pricing will be the same.

So it doesn’t matter where you buy your insurance — you’ll always get the same price?

Until now that was true. But at Tripinsurance.com, we offer exclusive products with comparable or better coverage and we have eliminated the “middleman cost” to assure our customers of substantial savings and higher value.

So you can offer lower prices because you’re dealing directly with your insurance underwriters?

The products are designed to be sold direct, and with fewer middlemen in the channel. So we can pass the savings on to the customer. On TripInsurance.com, you can buy comparable coverage for as much as 40 to 50 percent less than products you buy on other comparison websites or from a travel agent.

What else do travel insurance buyers need to know about insurance that isn’t common knowledge?

There are actually relatively few underwriters of travel insurance. This results in four or five different brands of travel insurance all backed by the same underwriter, with minor variations in the coverage details and price.

So you get many products overlapping from the same underwriter, right?

Exactly. And it is confusing and takes consumers way too much time to sort out the minor differences and similar options and buy a travel insurance policy today that meets their specific needs.

How else is TripInsurance.com different?

We’re dedicated to providing better customer service.

We make the policy terms easier to understand and easy to compare. We also have 24/7 telephone customer support to help our customers make the right purchase; provide travel assistance before, during and after the trip; and when something does go wrong, we are there to help with claims.

Customers can file claims and check the status of claims online on our website site for every brand we sell. Also, every policy sold includes enrollment in e-Travel Alerts. This gives our customers emailed bulletins of any news that could affect their travel plans. No other travel insurance company provides this kind of service to help make travel safer and more enjoyable.

Meet the underwriters: Yuupon offers a brighter future for flash sales

Mary Song is a serial travel entrepreneur and a supporter of this site, most recently with her new company, Yuupon. The site, which officially launches tomorrow, takes a different approach to flash sales — one that may be advantageous to travelers looking for a deal. Song explains.

How did you come up with the name Yuupon?

We like to define Yuupon as “Best vacation friend.” “Yuu” in Japanese means ‘distant’ or ‘leisurely’ and by extension can be interpreted as ‘vacation.’ “Pon” in Japanese means “best friend.” Put them together and you get Yuupon.
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Meet the underwriters: Cheapflights

If you’re a regular reader of this site, you already know Cheapflights is an easy way to search for flight deals and travel information online. The company been an underwriter since we’ve had underwriters, which is a very long time. But what you might not know is that tomorrow, Cheapflights will release several new features that you’ll want to check out. I asked Chris Cuddy, Cheapflights’ chief executive, to talk about the upgrade.

A lot of my site’s readers are very familiar with Cheapflights, because you’ve been a long-time underwriter. But for those of us who are new to the site, can you briefly explain what Cheapflights does?

Cheapflights is a travel deals publisher and search site. Through our direct relationships with airlines and online travel agencies, we publish over 4 million deals a day around the world. Our users can search for flights or flights and hotels in a number of different ways.

We offer deals search. If you are flexible on dates, this is a great way to compare prices and see when you can fly for less. We also offer a date search, which lets you plug in the dates and check out the offering from our various partners who have inventory that match.

There’s also a new ‘Be Inspired’ search, which is where we help people brain storm about fun new places they could travel paired with concrete deals that will get them on their way.

Plus, we have staff-picked deals, where our travel experts select sales and promotions where, if you act fast, you can save, and a newsletter, where subscribers can tell us where they fly from most often and the kind of trips they like and get regular emails with deals tailored to their travel preferences.

What’s the best way to use Cheapflights? Should air travelers use it in conjunction with an online agency and traditional agent, or is it meant to be a one-stop?

Cheapflights was the world’s starting point for travel for over 100 million visitors last year. Travelers see that Cheapflights works directly with more airlines and travel partners than any other flights website on the planet.

Our technology does the legwork for you by gathering millions of airfares from hundreds of flights partners every day. In addition, our editorial travel experts publish guides to airports and airlines, and pen travel tips, and blog posts on deals, destinations and trends.
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Meet the underwriters: Skooba Design

Michael Hess is the chief executive of Skooba Design, one of this site’s charter underwriters. He continues our series, Meet the underwritersHere’s the first part.

What is Skooba Design and how did it get started?

Skooba designs and manufactures innovative, high-quality tech and travel bags and accessories. Bags for laptops, iPads, netbooks, just about every gadget … plus cords, adapters, memory and all the other stuff that has to travel with any electronic arsenal.

Skooba got its start ten years ago — it actually was called RoadWired at the time — but we have actually been in the bag biz for about 20 years. My family owned a prominent manufacturing and distribution company in the photographic industry, and among our dozen or-so brands was a well-known line of camera bags, which we actually made right in our own factory in upstate New York.

After we sold the company in 1998, I decided to start a new bag business that would stretch beyond the photo market and get us into what were then the still fairly emergent laptop/gadget categories.
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