Does travel insurance have too many exceptions?

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By Christopher Elliott

Catherine Markland assumes her travel insurance policy will cover her canceled tour. But it doesn’t. Can her trip be saved?

Question

A friend and I purchased a tour from Friendly Planet to Ecuador last July. We booked a round-trip flight on American Airlines from Dallas to Miami to arrive in time to connect to the LAN flight to Quito, Ecuador.

We purchased flight insurance with Access America Insurance for the super-saver flights from Dallas to Miami. In February, Friendly Planet emailed me, stating that they had canceled the tour due to too few participants. They gave me the choice to receive a refund or to schedule another tour later in the year. I decided to reschedule.

However, Access America denied the claim I made to cover the costs of changing the American Airlines flights, which was $137 for each of us. I had spoken to two representatives from Access America explaining what had occurred, and both encouraged me to file the claim since it was not my fault that the trip was canceled. The process was time-consuming.

I have written a letter to Access America asking for a second review. I think Access America insurance is bogus at best since the trip was interrupted because it was never started. What is the purpose of insurance if not to cover the unexpected? — Catherine Markland, Whitney, Texas

Answer

If your insurance policy covered a canceled tour, then Access America should have paid up.

But did it? I contacted the insurance company and discovered that rescheduling a trip due to a lack of tour participants isn’t covered. It aligns with your view that purchasing insurance gives the impression of protection in case of vacation-related issues. But you have to read the fine print.

Most travel insurance policies cover specific situations described in their terms. Covered reasons for canceling or interrupting a trip include common events such as illness or injury to the insured, a traveling companion, or close family member, as well as various health, transportation, accommodation, political, and work circumstances.

Airline insurance caution

It appears you purchased your policy to cover your airline ticket, through your airline’s site. I’m a little dubious of the insurance offered through airlines, because they can be extremely restrictive. (I’ve heard insurance insiders joke that you have to die in a plane crash or lose a limb in order to make a successful claim, but I’m sure that’s an exaggeration.)

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Insurance purchased through an airline is often an afterthought — and optional purchase with your airline ticket. Travel insurance should never be an afterthought. It’s advisable to shop around for the right insurance policy rather than clicking a button when booking a ticket and assuming coverage. (Here’s how to find the best travel insurance for your next trip.)

I contacted Access America on your behalf. They reviewed your case and determined that your tour cancellation wasn’t covered. I apologize. (Related: Will your travel insurance cover you when you need it?)

Update: Some of you will recognize this story — it’s based on the very first “case dismissed” post I wrote last year. About a month after I covered Markland’s unsuccessful claim, Friendly Planet decided to reimburse her for her flight, after all.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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