Air Travel and the Value of Travel Insurance

Allison Sodha

I have written quite a few posts about travel insurance - the benefits, the policies, and why I always recommend coverage for clients. I also make sure to personally purchase a policy for each and every trip abroad. For the past two weeks, several of our clients have been met with unfortunate circumstances when traveling. All of the incidents have been associated with air travel, which is not surprising to us, especially this time of year. Flights are oversold, winter weather is unpredictable, and the busy holiday season makes it difficult for airlines to efficiently accommodate the passengers.

Although travel insurance can offer protection and reimbursement for trip cancellation, trip interruption, and medical expenses, I would like to focus this particular post on the value of insurance specifically relating to air travel. Most policies offer coverage for flight cancellations, missed connections, baggage delay/loss, and any costs directly associated with these incidents, including hotel rooms and transport costs. However, often the circumstances are not as simple as a flight cancellation due to weather. Last week, we had two clients traveling from Toronto - Delhi. The segment from Toronto - London was on Airline #1 and the segment from London - Delhi was on Airline #2. (The tickets were linked and operated under a codeshare partnership.) After arriving in London, the clients were denied boarding on Airline #2. The gate agent told them that their ticket number and confirmation number were invalid. They were instructed to visit the office of Airline #1 to correct the issue, and return to the gate. The agent pulled up the reservation and said the ticket number was correct and it was confirmed in the system. They were told to return to the gate and try again. Upon reaching, the agent at Airline #2 said the same thing and once again denied boarding. They missed their flight.

Eventually, Airline #2 admitted their mistake and found the reservation but still refused to rebook the passengers on the later flight. There were five seats available in economy, but since they were in a different fare category, they would not reissue the tickets unless a supplement was paid. After being on calls with various airline offices for four hours, my air desk agreed to pay the difference in fare, just to get the clients on their way. To this, Airline #2 responded that they could no longer make changes to the reservation since the clients had already departed from Toronto. The tickets were not reissued, the clients were forced to spend an overnight in London, and Airline #2 would not provide a hotel voucher, meal voucher, or assistance. Finally, Airline #2 rebooked the clients on a flight the following day and issued an apology.

Unfortunately, the clients had not elected to purchase travel insurance. Although it was the direct error of the airline, the clients were responsible for their hotel and transport in London. They also missed a full day of touring and two nights of hotel accommodations in Delhi. If a policy was purchased, all of these expenses would be reimbursed, as well as phone calls, meals, and other incidentals.

Just like with auto or health insurance, travel insurance is not for when things go as planned. The protection is for those unexpected and often costly incidents. Together with the clients, we plan to fight these charges with the airline for a refund, due to their admitted mistake. However, without coverage, the expenses are ultimately the responsibility of the passenger.

This is just one example of the true value of travel insurance. I have many years of personal and professional experience in the travel industry, and I am familiar with how air service was and what it has become. Customer service issues aside, the airlines do not offer as many vouchers for missed or cancelled flights as in previous years. Generally, we find that the cost of the insurance policy is only a fraction of what the clients pay for airline change fees, accommodations, etc. No coverage can reimburse or offer protection against the potential headaches and anxiety, but knowing you have 24/7 support and financial coverage is a real value - and worth every penny. For more information, please visit our Travel Insurance page or contact a Sodha Travel Destination Specialist.

Topics: Transportation, Airlines, Travel Insurance

Allison Sodha

Written by Allison Sodha

As the President of Sodha Travel and author of Go! Girl Guides India, Allison has spent almost two decades exploring South Asia. She has a passion for creating experiences fueled by a deeper understanding of local communities.