Sharon Burgess was trying to find out whether her travel insurance carrier would issue a refund for a canceled wedding trip. But when DestinationWeddings.com kept her waiting for the refund, she heard alarm bells ring instead of wedding bells.
Burgess’ story underscores the value of adequate insurance coverage when traveling overseas. It also emphasizes that the wait time for refunds may be longer than usual during the coronavirus pandemic. In troubled times, the three Ps of self-advocacy — patience, persistence and politeness — are more important than ever.
Coronavirus forces postponement of a destination wedding in Costa Rica
In January, Burgess booked a stay through DestinationWeddings.com at the Dreams Las Mareas resort in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. She was part of a group of guests who planned to attend a wedding there in May. Her reservations included “cancel for any reason” insurance coverage through Travel Impressions, a brand of Apple Leisure Group (ALG). She paid $867 for the trip and happily anticipated attending the wedding.
Alas, it was not meant to be.
With the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, Costa Rica closed its borders to overseas travelers. In April, the bridal couple postponed their wedding to Aug. 28.
The policy would provide a canceled wedding insurance refund if necessary…
Burgess emailed a “certified destination wedding and group travel specialist” at DestinationWeddings. She wanted to know if her travel insurance would cover the rescheduled wedding in August.
“I do not want to wait for the new dates, find that it is too risky for me to travel and then I’m not covered and lose it all,” Burgess wrote.
The DestinationWeddings employee responded that if Burgess didn’t cancel, the insurance policy coverage would transfer to the new wedding date. The policy would cover Burgess if she needed a canceled wedding insurance refund in August. But if she needed to cancel, the DestinationWeddings employee would need to process her refund request.
And it turned out to be necessary
In August, Costa Rica’s travel restrictions again forced the bride and groom to postpone their wedding to October. They eventually canceled their wedding. (As of this writing, Costa Rica has reopened its borders to U.S. citizen tourists from some states, subject to restrictions.)
Burgess asked the DestinationWeddings employee to request an insurance reimbursement of her trip fees. The employee told Burgess that she should receive the refund in 8 to 12 weeks. But after 14 weeks, Burgess was still waiting for her refund.
Burgess followed up with the employee, who assured her that she had submitted the refund request. But neither she nor anyone else at DestinationWeddings could give Burgess any more information about the refund.
Frustrated by the wait, Burgess asked Elliott Advocacy to help her obtain her insurance refund for the canceled wedding.
Elliott Advocacy officiates over a canceled wedding insurance refund request
Our advocate Dwayne Coward contacted ALG on Burgess’ behalf to find out what was holding up her refund.
A representative of ALG responded that Burgess’ case was “a bit more complicated than most” because it involved a group of travelers. However, ALG “worked with the agent to finalize all refunds” for everyone in the wedding group, including Burgess.
When your travel company gets cold feet about a refund
Delayed insurance refunds certainly aren’t “something new” or “something borrowed.” But they can make those insured feel blue.
But during the coronavirus pandemic, many travel companies must process a far higher volume of refund requests than normal with reduced staffs. They need more time than usual to issue refunds for canceled trips. As our publisher, Christopher Elliott, noted in March at the beginning of the pandemic, patience is paramount when seeking refunds — especially now.
Our executive director, Michelle Couch-Friedman, advises against canceling a flight or cruise too soon. If you cancel before your travel company does, you may not be eligible for a refund. Or the company may deny your request because your reason for canceling doesn’t qualify as a “covered reason,” according to its terms and conditions.
Unfortunately, many travel insurance policies don’t cover pandemics, or they have other provisions that permit denials of refund claims. Even “cancel for any reason” policies may reimburse only 50 to 75 percent of all covered travel costs.
And travel companies are continuously changing their refund policies in response to the pandemic. It’s important to stay apprised of your travel companies’ policies before initiating a refund request. On Tuesday you may be eligible for a refund, but maybe not on Wednesday.
How to self-advocate a travel insurance refund request
If you need to cancel a trip and your travel insurance carrier won’t budge on your refund request, here are some steps you can take to speed things along:
- Write to the insurer. Our Contacts section contains executive information for many travel and insurance companies, including Apple Leisure Group.
- Start with the lowest-ranking executive and give that person a week to respond. Escalate to the next-highest executive if you don’t receive a helpful response.
- Be courteous in the tone of your communications. Observe the three Ps – patience, politeness and persistence and avoid shouting (using all caps), sarcasm, accusations and threats.
- Keep your communications concise and reasonable. Don’t ask your insurer to reimburse you for costs that are outside your policy limits or aren’t covered by the policy. And don’t include a laundry list of grievances or overly personal matters in your letters or emails.
- Include a paper trail of emails, receipts, confirmations and other documentation of your costs. Your paper trail establishes the insurer’s obligations to you. Without it, the insurer will not be able to process your refund claim — and Elliott Advocacy will not be able to assist you.
If your insurer continues to deny or delay issuing you a reimbursement, contact Elliott Advocacy. Our advocates are ready to assist you!