Editor’s note: For years, readers have asked me to write a regular feature on my failures as a reader advocate. (As if my critics need any more ammunition.) So today, I’m doing just that. “Case dismissed” will explore the mediation requests that bombed. Don’t forget to vote in the poll and comment on this case. Your opinion matters!
Catherine Markland was looking forward to her Ecuador trip with Friendly Planet this month. She had a little extra peace of mind because she’d purchased an insurance policy for her flights through Access America.
Maybe she shouldn’t have been so confident. When her plans changed, she discovered a thing or two about her coverage — a thing or two I couldn’t help her undo.
Last week on this site I ran a series about travel insurance. Read the fine print, I said. But what if the fine print doesn’t specifically address a situation you couldn’t even anticipate?
In February of this year, I received an email from Friendly Planet Travel, my tour operator, saying that the tour had been cancelled due to too few participants. I was given the choice from Friendly Planet to receive a refund or to schedule to another tour later in the year. I subsequently rescheduled on a different date for the trip.
She rebooked her flights from Dallas to Miami that had been insured by Access America. But the airline wanted $150 to change the tickets.
I had spoken to two representatives from Access America explaining what had occurred, both of whom encouraged me to file the claim since it was not my fault that the trip was canceled. The process was time-consuming and detailed.
Access America turned her down.
Why? Not having enough tour participants isn’t a “covered reason” for a cancellation under her policy.
At this point I ask myself: “Why purchase flight insurance?” I have written a letter to Access America asking for a second review. I think Access America insurance is bogus at best, since the trip was interrupted because it was never started. What is the purpose of insurance if not to cover the unexpected?
I asked Access America to review her case. Here’s its response:
The travel insurance that Ms. Markland purchased covers the specific situations, events and losses as described in her insurance policy.
There are a number of common events, such as illness or injury to an insured, a traveling companion or close family member, as well as a list of other health, transportation/accommodation, political/terrorism and work circumstances, that are “covered reasons” for canceling or interrupting a trip.
Unfortunately, rescheduling a trip because of a lack of participation in a tour would not be one of those covered reasons.
We’re sorry that we were unable to cover Ms. Markland in this case, but we do wish her well in her future travels.
I’m disappointed by that response.
Access America is saying that unless Markland’s reason for cancellation was explicitly noted in her policy, she won’t get her $150. But when you travel, there are an almost infinite number of circumstances you can encounter. It’s impossible to write them all up in a policy, and even if it were possible, who would have the time to read all that fine print?