Airline Problems Make Travel Insurance Necessary
Air travel to Alaska and other remote locations is complicated. Our article “Flying in Alaska is a Way of Life” discusses some of the issues you should consider in getting to your Alaska fishing vacation. Destination resorts and lodges recommend travel insurance. Not only do we recommend it, we have comprehensive travel insurance on every single trip we take.
In light of recent headlines about airline problems, now seems like a good time to discuss comprehensive travel insurance. We also wanted to answer some important questions about being denied boarding or missing a flight. You have many non-reimbursable expenses on a vacation. Lodge fees, activities and airline tickets are nonrefundable if you need to cancel your trip or travel is interrupted. Comprehensive travel insurance has many benefits including cancellation for any reason coverage. Airline travel insurance is usually restricted just to flight costs.
You have probably read articles in the past few weeks about cancellations and delays, as well as passengers being denied boarding or removed from planes after boarding. The factors causing these problems are deeply rooted in the airline industry. Crowded flights, overbooking, delays and cancellations are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Airlines have overbooked flights for many years. Airlines use overbooking to adjust for customers that book flights but do not show up. Bumping occurs when that “adjustment” results in more people showing up for the flight than the airline estimated. Airlines manage their fleets carefully and do not want to add equipment or flights until they are sure the demand will be sufficient to fill the planes. Recent increases in jet fuel costs also make flights in general more expensive and some routes have fewer flights. Federal regulations require compensation if you are involuntary denied boarding but this compensation is limited with a maximum of $1,350 and may not be in cash. If you cannot make it to your lodge, the trip interruption or cancellation provisions of comprehensive travel insurance covers your nonrefundable payments.
Flying to remote locations in far-away places involves changing weather. In the past, weather has been the principal reason we recommend travel insurance.
In early April 2017, Delta Airlines cancelled approximately 300 flights on a single day from its Atlanta hub due to thunderstorms. Departing and arriving flights were also delayed. Arriving flights were delayed less than three hours on average with departing flights delayed about forty-five minutes. All things considered, this does not seem like a major problem as frequent thunderstorms are common throughout the country in the spring and summer. The ripple effect of this weather event was still causing flight cancellations and delays days later. Overbooking, a limited number of aircraft, and flight crew rest requirements were primary causes of the continued cancellations and delays.
Flight Crew Rest Requirements
No one wants to fly with a tired flight crew. Federal regulations require specific rest periods and limit flight hours per week, month and year. Flight duty period which defines the start and end time of a pilot’s duty day also limit his or her work hours. Some delays happen because planes may be available but rested crews are not. Crews may also be in another city and need a ride to get to your flight (another reason for bumping paying passengers).
Comprehensive travel insurance has always been a necessity in our opinion when you have paid large costs in advance that are nonrefundable. It also adds great peace-of-mind when traveling. The added airline operating problems add to the risk of trip interruption or cancellation.
Travel Insurance and Volunteering Your Seat
Travel insurance policies have different options available. Purchasing a fully comprehensive policy is important to cover all kinds of problems including travel interruption and delay. I have been asked a few questions since the airline news reports started.
Can I Volunteer My Seat With An Airline Guaranty of A Confirmed Seat On the Next Flight? If you volunteer your seat, you are accepting a change to your original itinerary that was established when you purchased the policy. Accepting this change removes the coverage for this first leg of the flight. If you do not make the “confirmed” next flight, missing future legs will also not be covered. This is important–the articles you are seeing now about people making thousands of dollars in compensation involve volunteering for several successive “confirmed” seats that have been oversold on their rebooked flights. The short answer is NO. Do not put your entire vacation cost in jeopardy by volunteering to give up you seat.
If I get involuntarily bumped, do regular terms cover my trip? The answer is YES if your policy includes trip interruption or trip delay in the Description of Coverage in your policy. Policies are different and you should review the terms with your travel insurance agent to understand your coverage.
How does compensation from the airline for being involuntarily bumped impact my travel insurance claims? The airline is legally obligated to compensate you for this delay. The compensation does not impact your claim. You would be reimbursed all covered costs.
Know The Rules and Call If You have Questions
The best thing you can do when traveling is to purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy. Not only are trip delays covered but illness, lost baggage, and much more is covered. Take a look at our travel insurance page for more information.
If you have a problem on your trip, call your travel insurance company immediately. I cannot tell you the number of people that don’t call. You should always call the insurance company’s toll free number and get help and direction from them as soon as the problem occurs. Customer service will tell you what is covered in your particular situation, book new flights for you, book an overnight hotel, and help with other problems during the travel incident. Contacting the insurance company also automatically establishes a claim.
Keep in mind that you can buy travel insurance from many people just as you can with auto and homeowners policies. Purchase from an agent that knows what you need in your travel policy and will support you if you need to use it for a travel incident. I can help you with any travel insurance for any trip. Please give me a call if you have any questions or for a free quote for a travel insurance policy.