Why won’t insurance cover my canceled flight?

David Ayres misses his tour because of a weather-related cancellation. Why won’t his travel insurance policy cover him?

Question: My wife, Elizabeth, and I are faithful readers of your column. We never thought we would have to write to you with our tale of woe. But here we are.

Last year, we booked a five-day Northern Lights Reykjavik tour to Iceland. We also bought a travel insurance policy from Travelex. As a precaution, we booked our flight from Dallas to Boston on Southwest Airlines a day early, to ensure that we would make the late evening tour departure.

Unfortunately, there was a snowstorm in Boston, and our flight from Dallas to Boston was canceled. We scrambled unsuccessfully to book any flight on any airline that day or the next.
The tour flight, Icelandair 630, departed on schedule, and we were canceled out. The terms of our Travelex policy state that “delays resulting from inclement weather, or mechanical breakdown or organized labor strikes that affect public transportation” are covered. It also says it covers “arrangements canceled by an airline, cruise line, motor coach company, or tour operator, resulting from inclement weather, mechanical breakdown or organized labor strikes that affect public transportation.”

My claim that Southwest, as a common carrier, failed to get me to Boston in time for the tour flight due to weather was denied because my Southwest flight was not insured by them. However, I did not make any claim for the flight — only that its cancellation prevented me, due to weather, from making the tour. Anything you could do to rectify this will be appreciated.
David Ayres, Plano, Texas

Answer: Your insurance should have covered your trip. That’s one of the problems with travel insurance: Some of the definitions are amorphous, so even if you think you’re in good shape, you might not be.

Travelex defined the insurable portion of your trip as the tour, which started in Boston. But your trip began in Dallas, so that part wasn’t covered by insurance. In the end, you argued with Travelex over your ability to make it to the tour because of the inclement weather, so essentially, you were taking the Dallas-to-Boston segment off the table.

Travelex was splitting hairs, but then again, so were you. That shouldn’t have been necessary. Your travel insurance company should have been on your side, looking for a reason to honor your claim, not deny it. After all, you had insurance, and your flight was delayed and your trip was canceled. Isn’t that why you bought insurance in the first place?

When a dispute doesn’t go your way, you can formally appeal it in writing. If that doesn’t work, you could take this up with your state’s insurance commissioner or attorney general. Often, a polite inquiry by one of those parties is enough to get the insurance company to do the right thing.

I contacted Travelex on your behalf. The company reviewed your claim and the additional information you sent me.

“The claims administrator did make a recommendation to the underwriter to make an exception outside of the terms and conditions of the policy,” a Travelex representative told me. “The underwriter did review and approve the claim for payment.”

Travelex is honoring your claim for $2,310.

This story first appeared June 11, 2015.

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