“A tough but doable trip has turned into a nightmare”

John Dunlop’s daughter, Francine, was supposed to fly from Copenhagen to Washington with her four children, including six-month old twins, last Friday. All by herself.

Talk about an impossible trip.

But then KLM made it even more impossible when it denied her boarding four times.

“A tough but doable trip has turned into a nightmare,” says Dunlop, a foreign service officer stationed in Iraq.
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Maybe Anthony Weiner needs this woman’s phone number

Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock
Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock
No American airline thinks of its customers in quite the same way Spirit Airlines does. And the feeling is mutual, as far as many of its passengers are concerned.

If you have any doubts, look no further than last week’s tasteless Anthony Weiner promotion. Seriously, folks. You can’t make this stuff up.

Or, for a more G-Rated discussion, consider what happened to Catherine Migliano when she tried to cancel her $9 Fare Club membership recently. The carrier’s corporate intransigence may have opened the entire airline industry to millions of dollars in damage claims.

Spirit’s “club” offers access to lower fares and discounts, but it is also — and this is clearly disclosed on the airline’s site — a self-renewing membership. It’s a never-ending source of complaints, for a variety of reasons.
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Insurance claim denied because of … air traffic?

Arthur Ruffino’s travel insurance claim is a real heartbreaker, for several reasons.

First, he did everything he could to make sure he was covered by his CSA policy, but was still denied.

Second, his well-reasoned appeal went nowhere. And finally, even though I agreed that his case should be granted another review, the insurance company dug in its heels.
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Why doesn’t travel insurance cover dad’s illness?

When Jessica Kamzik’s father was diagnosed with stomach cancer last summer, there was no question about what she had to do. Dad’s prognosis was “grave” — the doctors said he probably wouldn’t make it to the holidays — and, “as any loving daughter would do, I immediately cancelled our vacation to stay closer to him,” she says.

Good thing she had travel insurance through Access America, she thought. At least she wouldn’t have to worry about losing the cost of her trip.

But she thought wrong.
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Travel insurance policy claim denied for vaccine cancellation

Richard Effress though he had a perfectly legitimate reason for canceling part of his trip to Africa with his mother: a new requirement that travelers entering South Africa needed a yellow fever vaccine. He was certain his travel insurance policy would cover the change.

Maybe he shouldn’t have been so certain.

Today’s “case dismissed” file is a sad lesson in making assumptions about a travel insurance policy that you shouldn’t. It is also a reminder to compare travel insurance. The fine print in your contract, it turns out, can cost you lots of money.
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The Travel Troubleshooter: Can this cruise be salvaged?

Question: We need your help with a Carnival cruise that went nowhere. Earlier this year, we booked a Western Caribbean cruise directly through Carnival, including airfare and shore excursions.

On the day we were supposed to travel, our nightmare began. Our plane was delayed because of mechanical problems. So was the next flight. We missed the boat in Miami.

We wanted to reschedule the cruise, but Carnival suggested that we catch up with the ship in the Cayman Islands. We had to pay for new tickets to the Caymans. But when we arrived in Miami, a Carnival representative asked us for passports — and we only had passport cards.

We had to turn back to Cleveland. There were more mechanical delays. We made a claim with our travel insurance, but were only reimbursed $500 per person. Carnival says they should be able to give us something for the missed cruise but said we first had to fill out the insurance claim.

We booked the cruise, shore excursions, balcony upgrade and the missed flight all through Carnival. We want a vacation and we don’t have the money because Carnival is holding us hostage. Could you help us? — Denise Frantz, Cleveland

Answer: This cruise just wasn’t meant to be. But it might have been — if you’d gotten a passport instead of a passport card.
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Can this trip be saved? No miles for my flight — can you retrieve them for me?

Here’s a type of case that crosses my desk often, and to which I almost always say “no.” But should I?

Oscar La Torre recently took two flights — one from Miami to Sao Paolo on TAM and the other on from Lima to Piura on LAN Airlines. He’s entitled to miles on OnePass for the TAM flight and through his AAdvantage account for LAN, he says. Both airlines are denying him.

Can I save his miles?

Before I answer, a disclaimer: I am, as many of you know, a frequent flier program skeptic. I believe loyalty programs benefit airlines more than they do travelers, and they also divide us into “haves” and “have-nots” on the plane, which makes this egalitarian, idealistic crusader bristle. But enough about me.
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Case dismissed? Travel insurance won’t cover my canceled tour

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?
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Is this enough compensation? A do-over for being denied boarding on my cruise

Veda Robinson and Jackie Smartt were looking forward to their Carnival cruise last December. But they never made it on board. Smartt had packed the wrong ID, and the cruise line left her standing at the dock.

They also left Robinson standing next to her.

Actually, it was a little more dramatic: Robinson says she was told she wasn’t going anywhere without Smartt, and then the pair was escorted from the building by security, even though they made no effort to resist.

In other words, Carnival denied Robinson boarding, even though it had no reason to.

Robinson and Smartt had to buy a last-minute airline ticket back to Memphis. Robinson contacted Carnival and asked for a full refund of her ticket, since she feels she should have been able to take the cruise. After all, the cabin had been paid for, and she had the right ID.

In response, Carnival offered her a do-over cruise, based on availability, in February.

Why not a full refund?

“Carnival will not reimburse me for being denied boarding, even though I had documentation, because they recently advised me that the personnel at the pier asked me, “Do you want to board?” and documented on my incident report, that I said no,” she says.

That’s untrue, she says.
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Everything you need to know about the new denied boarding compensation rules

Editor’s note: This is part six in a series about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. You can read the entire document here (.DOC). Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at The future of air travel depends on it.

The problem with proposed rulemakings is that they often run on forever, and the journalists who are supposed to review them and report back gloss over the really important material.

Result? You get the headline: “Government to raise denied boarding compensation.” And that’s it.

But there’s more — so much more — when it comes to the proposed overbooking rules.
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Claim denied on a terrorism technicality

delhiQuestion: My travel insurance claim has been denied, and so have my appeals. I hope you can help us.

My husband and I were scheduled to visit India last Thanksgiving, the day after the horrific terrorist event began. British and Americans were being singled out and murdered, hotels were being burned, and threats were made of hijacking and attacks on airports and train stations in the country.

We were terrified of the unfolding events, and canceled our travel plans. We had purchased a travel insurance policy through Access America. One of the named perils is a terrorist event.

Access America has denied our claim because we were scheduled to travel to New Delhi, and the hotel that was under siege was in Mumbai. I believe that the definition of destination — according to their policy and the online dictionary — includes the entire country. Plus, as part of the terrorist activity, impending threats were made to airports, train stations and other places throughout India.

We’ve lost about $7,300. Is there anything you can do? — Diane Gandara, Napa, Calif.

Answer: I agree with your definition of a destination. Access America should have refunded the money you spent on your vacation.

Why didn’t it? I asked the company, and a representative told me that in order to make a successful claim, the terrorist event would have to occur in the city you were traveling to. Since you were on your way to Delhi, not Mumbai, the claims examiner was technically correct to deny your request.
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