Didn’t buy a trip insurance policy? Chase might have you covered

Sheri Schmidt’s husband suffers a massive stroke before their nonrefundable flight to Brazil.  Unfortunately, she didn’t purchase a trip insurance policy. JustFly informs her that a refund is not possible and that there will be hefty change fees associated with these tickets. But hold on — could her Chase credit card provide an answer to this problem?

Question

I’m writing to see if you can give me any help with the resolution of this problem. I purchased tickets for my husband and me from Miami to Rio de Janeiro through JustFly. The tickets cost $1,617.

My husband had a massive stroke and a traumatic brain injury shortly before our scheduled flights. I called the following evening after this happened to cancel the tickets. I know now that I should have waited until I was thinking more clearly.

Although I did tell JustFly the circumstances, it charged me $150 in modification fees for each ticket. Then it only gave me a partial credit for our TAM flights. The net effect was that I ended up only credited a total of $485 toward my $1,617 purchase.

I have since learned that with a doctor’s letter the airlines will sometimes bend their non-refundable policy. I now have such a letter from our hospital. Might you be able to help me get a more equitable settlement? — Sheri Schmidt, Lonsdale, Minn.

Answer

When I reviewed your plea for help, I certainly sympathized and wanted to assist you. That’s reasonable — I’m a consumer advocate. Unfortunately, your hope that JustFly would have the same empathic reaction was a lofty one.

But in fairness to the company, it did handle this particular situation by the book. That is to say that the JustFly representative followed the rules of the ticket as outlined by the airline and its own terms and conditions.

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Looking for a refund on a nonrefundable airline ticket

Airlines (and consumer advocates) receive numerous inquiries every week from passengers with this same type of request: How can I get a refund for my non-refundable ticket? In his article on the topic, our publisher Christopher Elliott offers some tips on possible ways to score a refund on a nonrefundable ticket.

But in general, nonrefundable tickets are as the name implies. These tickets aren’t refundable — even if you have an unexpected health crisis such as your husband did. That is exactly what trip insurance was designed for — to protect against unplanned events.

If there is no trip insurance policy in place, a traveler must pay a change fee and any fare differential. In addition to those fees, there is always the added restriction that the tickets must be rebooked and used within one year of the date of purchase of the original ticket.

Your situation was further complicated because you involved a third party in your ticket purchase. When you do that, the airline has limited control over your ticket. In this situation, two requests for special consideration needed to be granted. And one of them, JustFly, has no history with us of granting such requests.

The path to a successful resolution for your case seemed rough. But I thought there might be one other route for you to try.

Chase membership benefits include a basic trip insurance policy

Recently, we have seen that many major credit cards are offering a basic trip insurance policy as an included benefit. Many consumers aren’t even aware that they may have this protection.

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I suggested that you check with the credit card company that you used to book this trip and inquire about any included travel insurance.

Surprise!

You had used the United MileagePlus Explorer card by Chase Bank. As outlined in your benefits, this card provides trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance when you use the card to pay for your travel:

If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to the benefit level for your prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses made with your Chase MileagePlus Explorer Card, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.

The good news from Chase

You then filed a claim with your newly-found trip insurance policy. Although you had missed the deadline for submitting a claim, Chase granted a waiver on that detail. You have now been reimbursed for almost all of your expenses associated with this trip.

I wish your husband a speedy recovery, and I am happy to have been able to point you in the right direction to a positive resolution.

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, SEO-lady, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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