“I missed my entire trip because my plane was delayed”

icelandairGlen Segal didn’t make it to Reykjavik.

He’d paid $2,628 for a one-week vacation package to through Icelandair that included accommodations at the Hilton Nordica. He’d even shelled out an extra $200 for Access America trip cancellation insurance. But in the end, none of that mattered.

Here’s the sad story of Segal’s missed vacation — and how you can prevent it from happening to you.

Since his package flight departed from Boston, Segal booked a separate ticket from Orange County, Calif., to Boston on American Airlines. He bought trip cancellation insurance for that flight, too.

Segal picks up the story from there.

I was scheduled to arrive in Boston on American Airlines at approximately 6:05 p.m., Eastern Time, on May 23, from Orange County by way of Dallas-Fort Worth.

My flight from Orange County to Dallas was supposed to arrive in Dallas before 12:30 p.m., Central Time, with the connecting flight to Boston scheduled to depart at 1:20 p.m.. Though the flight into Dallas landed in plenty of time to make the connection, we sat on the tarmac for almost 40 minutes before finally pulling up to our gate, as we were told there was another plane at our gate; however, there were plenty of empty gates in the vicinity of our gate.

I did not get off the plane until approximately 1:05 p.m., Central Time.

Long story short, Segal missed his connecting flight to Boston, missed his plane to Iceland and forfeited his entire vacation.

“I missed my entire trip because my flight was delayed,” he says.

Neither American Airlines nor Icelandair offered to compensate him for the trouble in any meaningful way, so he turned to Access America. His first claim was mostly denied, as was his appeal. So he turned to me for help.

As I reviewed his itinerary, a few thoughts came to mind. First, since this was a more complex itinerary, he might have benefited from the advice of a professional travel agent. An agent could have ensured that his reservations were linked and that he had plenty of time to connect in Dallas. What’s more, he would have had someone to call for help when he landed in Boston and couldn’t find a flight to Reykjavik.

I thought the best course of action would be to contact Access America on his behalf, so I did. Here’s the company’s response:

[The American Airlines policy] provided Trip Interruption (TINT) coverage of $305 and Travel Delay (TDEL) coverage of $500. He does not qualify for TINT (trip interruption) coverage as there was not a complete cessation of all services by his airline for 24 or more hours. We paid $245 for his overnight stay in Boston. Actually, that was a consideration for him as his benefit was limited to $150 per day and there was just that overnight that we have a receipt for.

The Iceland Air policy had $2,607 in TINT coverage and $200 in TDEL (delay) coverage. We paid a $200 TDEL on this policy.

We were unable to pay him TINT as I note above. The delay(s) he encountered would not have caused him to miss 50 percent or more of his covered trip length of 7 days on his Icelandair policy that would have triggered coverage for not continuing on to Iceland.

In other words, Segal made the decision to turn back, but he could have pressed on an enjoyed more than half of his vacation, according to Access America.

So what are his options?

It’s difficult to say. Icelandair’s vacation packages are nonrefundable, and he missed his flight out of Boston. So Icelandair is off the hook. American Airlines typically doesn’t compensate passengers for delays. That leaves Access America. Did it misrepresent its insurance policy?

I think Segal’s best shot — really, a long shot — might be to take Access America to small claims court. If the company misrepresented its own policy in its promotional material, he might have a case. He should have no problem determining that; he’s a lawyer.

As for his ill-fated Iceland vacation, he’s going to get his chance for a do-over.

I’ve booked another trip to Iceland in August and am saving more than $700 by not booking it through Icelandair as a package. The kicker is that the hotel and the excursions are cancelable with at least 24-hours’ notice! And I get to fly out of Seattle.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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