Why won’t travel insurance cover my flight delay?

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AXA Assistance USA promises John Schwegel that it will cover the cost of a ticket home after his flight is delayed. But then it doesn’t. How do you persuade AXA to change its mind?

Question: I recently flew to New Zealand and back. I purchased a travel insurance policy through AXA Assistance USA.

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On my return flight from Christchurch to San Diego via Auckland and Los Angeles, the Jetstar Airlines flight took off more than an hour late because of operational problems. I missed the flight from Auckland to Los Angeles and my final connection to San Diego.

I called the AXA assistance number from Auckland and a representative told me they would either reimburse me $200 per day for expenses waiting for another American Airlines flight or pay up to $1,000 if I purchased another ticket.

I paid $1,357 for a flight which resulted in my arriving in San Diego more than 13 hours later than my original flights. I filed a claim and was denied. I’ve filed an appeal, but haven’t heard anything yet. Can you help me get the promised reimbursement? — John Schwegel, Wayzata, Minn.

Answer: When a travel insurance company representative says you’re covered, you should be covered. AXA should have reimbursed you for your expenses as promised. You should have only needed to file a claim, nothing more.

Your first claim was turned down because the company required a 12-hour delay. AXA’s records suggested — incorrectly, it turns out — that you were delayed less than half a day.

This looks like a simple misunderstanding. In fact, you were held up 13 hours, according to your records. Even if AXA is correct, and it measures a “delay” differently, it would still be wrong. That’s because one of its representatives already told you to buy a replacement ticket, essentially agreeing to cover your costs.

I know some of you reading this will say the written rules of a policy supersede the words of any employee. But I disagree. I think if an AXA representative tells you that you’re covered, you should be covered.

By the way, you can find the names, numbers and emails of all the insurance companies on my consumer advocacy site.

If your appeal is denied, you can use the contacts to get another look. But it didn’t come to that. I contacted AXA on your behalf. It reviewed your file and decided to honor your claim. AXA paid you the $1,000 policy limit.