Chuck Chiarello’s bucket list vacation to Alaska got off to a false start when his flight was canceled. It ended on a wrong note when his travel insurance company refused to cover some of his expenses associated with the cancellation.
I’ll cut to the chase: Since this story appears under the Case Dismissed! header, you already know how it ends. But it’s yet another cautionary tale about travel insurance, which should come in handy if you’re planning to insure your spring break vacation.
At first glance, I thought Chiarello had a pretty good chance of getting some money back. Boy, was I wrong.
Last May, he, his wife and another couple flew from Philadelphia to Anchorage to catch a tour. Total cost: $6,895 per couple, not including $156 per person for the Travel Guard insurance.
The first leg of their flight on May 13, from Philadelphia to Chicago on United Airlines, didn’t happen as scheduled. Theirs was one of more than 1,000 flights canceled after a fire in an air traffic control center.
“We waited at the Philadelphia airport all day, boarding and unboarding the plane until we were told our flight was finally canceled about 5 p.m.,” he says. “Our trip package in Alaska began on Thursday, May 15th. We thought it fortunate that we had planned on arriving in Anchorage a day early to sightsee.”
United tried to reroute both couples to Anchorage in time for their tour, to no avail. Their travel agent, Liberty Travel, couldn’t help either. So they took matters into their own hands.
“We called Alaska Airlines and found a flight with four seats leaving from Newark on Wednesday night at $800 per person,” says Chiarello. “With the time changes the flight would get us to Anchorage with about 5 hours to spare till the start of our tour package at 7 a.m. on Thursday morning.”
United Airlines arranged to transport them to Newark. They paid for accommodations at the DoubleTree in Newark, but they also lost the prepaid hotel rate at the Westmark Hotel in Anchorage because of its cancellation policy.
Chiarello assumed Travel Guard would have his back, refunding him for his lost hotel stay and the sizable difference in airfare. But that’s not what happened.
Travel Guard agreed to refund his hotel room in Newark, but nothing else.
Like Chiarello, I assumed his airfare might be covered. But no — he received only a refund on his stay at the DoubleTree.
I asked Travel Guard about his case. Here’s the somewhat defensive response.
As a general rule, we do not discuss details of our customers’ claims with third parties or the press. However, we will note generally that, while we have a range of Travel Guard insurance plans that can cover a wide variety of contingencies while traveling, not every reason for a delay or interruption is covered under every plan.
In this particular case we paid all losses that were covered under the plan purchased. Unfortunately, not every loss the customers suffered was covered under their plan.