How to Buy Flight Cancellation Insurance

As American Airlines canceled hundreds of flights through October, passengers were left scrambling for alternate flights or airlines to handle their travel plans. Those actually flying experienced more flight delays than normal too. Savvy passengers with travel insurance came out on top though, thanks to a normally unused feature common to many policies.

Blame it on American Airlines bankruptcy issues, labor problems, maintenance problems or layoffs, in a week’s time the troubled airline had canceled about 300 flights, mostly in and out of Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) airport.

“Prior to the recent issues, American had been running a good operation, with on-time performance and reliability measures at their best levels in many years,” American Airlines spokesman Bruce Hicks said in an LA Times story. “The recent disruptions are primarily due to the significant increase in maintenance write-ups by our pilots, many right at the time of departure.”

It’s a situation totally out of the control of passengers but one that can be made a bit easier to swallow with some basic travel insurance that covers flight delays or cancellations and, most importantly right now, offers traveler assistance.Travel Guard, for example, has a single trip plan and an annual plan for frequent travelers.

Their Savvy Traveler plan covers trip cancellation, interruption and delay, emergency medical treatment or evacuation, lost, stolen or damaged baggage or personal effects and baggage delay on any one given trip. The cost? About $25 for a $500 flight in October.

Frequent fliers can get Annual Travel Insurance for personal or business travel that covers trips or vacations throughout the year. This one includes everything from trip cancellation and interruption to unannounced strikes, weather delays and more – plus it comes with coverage for medical expenses that might be incurred away from home. That’s especially important when traveling internationally.

I bought one of their annual plans last year for about $200. It paid off when some medical expenses I incurred sailing on a cruise in international waters added up to over $2000, little of which was paid by my primary health insurance. The travel insurance paid the rest.

Say a flight booked on American Airlines was cancelled. The airline would do its best to reschedule. Frequent flyers know the drill too: flight canceled, stand in long line at airline customer service counter and hope to get to destination at a reasonable time.

But what would my travel insurance have done for me? We asked Travel Guard to find out.

“In addition to the 24-hour assistance Travel Guard provides customers in rebooking their flights, accommodations and other pre-planned travel arrangements, in the event that their trip is delayed five or more hours, travel insurance can reimburse for expenses incurred until travel becomes possible,” Carol Mueller, VP of Travel Guard North America told Gadling.

That could come in handy when a late, weather-delayed flight causes a missed connection and the next flight out is tomorrow. Weather-related flight delays? Technically, not the airline’s problem. The travel insurance company, much like a travel agent, is on your side and ready to help when needed.

“Cancellation would be covered when due to mechanical/equipment failure of the carrier, or when inclement weather causes delay or cancellation of travel,” added Mueller. “We recommend customers contact us at our toll-free number as soon as they know their trip is going to be delayed, interrupted or cancelled and we can help with alternate solutions to their travel plans.”

Regardless of which travel insurance company we choose, having that protection along for the ride when traveling can pay off. Liability-limiting reasons for airlines to cancel or delay flights due to weather events and “maintenance” issues seem to be on the rise. That takes travel insurance from an optional extra not likely to be used to something that may be seriously considered.


[Flickr photos by Scott Ableman]

Catfighting flight attendants put a stop to Delta Connection flight

A Delta Airlines connection flight was cancelled last Thursday, after two female flight attendants engaged in a catfight. According to the Associated Press, Rochester-to-Atlanta-bound Delta Connection Flight 887 was forced to return to the departure gate after one of the passengers fell ill. Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines spokesman Joe Williams states that there was no physical contact between the dueling attendants, merely a “verbal disagreement.”

Passenger Steve Mazur contradicts Williams’ statement, saying that the women, “Apparently got into a fistfight. The pilot decided to kick everyone off the plane.” Fellow passenger Corey Minton adds that they were ordered to disembark because “stewardesses were fighting.”

Delta damage-controlled the situation by finding alternate travel arrangements for passengers, but likely won’t be able to erase the salacious image of flight attendants scratching one another’s eyes out. Both women have been put on leave until an internal investigation can be done. Says Williams, “The activity described is not acceptable.”

Canceled flights can get you some luxury

If you happen to be one of those unfortunate people who come up with a dud on what seems to be a new roulette style airline game called “Will My Flight be Canceled?” or even worse, “Will my Airline Shut Down Overnight?,” you can head to certain Kimpton Hotels for a gift designed especially for you–the stranded traveler.

As a way to coax stranded travelers to a Kimpton Hotel, the “Stranded in Style” promotion allows guests with a canceled flight to choose from the following options they show a canceled boarding pass or ticket:

  • Bath salts or eye mask
  • Bottle of wine or in-room movie
  • KN Karen Neuburger zebra chenille lounge socks
  • Cocktail or appetizer at adjacent restaurant

    Participating hotels include: 70 park avenue and The Muse in New York, Hotel Argonaut in San Francisco and Hotel Monaco in Denver.

    This may not be enough to turn lemons into lemonade, but it’s an interesting idea. I wonder what budget motels could come up with? Maybe you could get real Half-and-Half instead of non-dairy creamer with that complimentary cup of coffee.

  • Depressed in Ohio about Skybus and Jet Blue deprived

    I found out about Skybus’s demise from Grant when I checked e-mail last night. Grant had found out the news from a comment sent to us from a reader a few hours earlier. While Grant was busy typing up the Skybus calls it quits post, I was out having a drink with a friend, unaware that my summer plans were mucked up,–and my birthday–AND a visit from another friend.

    Yesterday afternoon I decided we should fly to New York on Skybus instead of drive after seeing how cheap flights still were in August. Luckily, I hadn’t booked the tickets yet. I wonder how many people booked flights yesterday totally unaware that they’d be contacting their credit card company less than a day later?

    My husband just told me an hour ago that he had bought a ticket for my best friend in Massachusetts to come to Columbus for my birthday the end of August. That’s out. The bill has not been paid yet–we haven’t even received it, so I think we may be in luck and not have to pay. Who would come get us to make us pay?

    I also just remembered that a friend of mine in Los Angeles was to come to visit in May. He bought his ticket back in September. How does that work since that credit card bill has long been paid? I’m sure there are many many stories like this one all over Columbus. I heard two of them today in a writers group I go to.

    Here’s my beef. Jet Blue pulled out of Columbus this year because of Skybus. Even though Jet Blue is offering cheap seats for folks stranded by Skybus, because that airline doesn’t come to Ohio that doesn’t help us in the Buckeye state. The non-stop flight to L.A. on Delta that I took in September isn’t available anymore either. For Ohio, whose economy is a bit in the tank, Skybus was something to feel special about. We were the city with those $10 airfare. People were coming to Columbus as a result. That’s over. I know for sure my friend in L.A. won’t be coming in May. My other friend may still come for my birthday, but with the price of airfare now, I might want to come up with something else.

    I sure hope Jet Blue comes back. Please. Pretty please?

    Skybus cancels flights, but there’s hope

    On last night’s news there was a report on Skybus woes. Flights,18 in all, were canceled yesterday and the day before due to repair issues with two planes. That may not seem like many planes, but the way Skybus works is that the same planes are used for various flights on the same day–and evidently there aren’t spare planes ready to fill in if there’s a problem.

    Because Skybus doesn’t have agreements with other airlines, people couldn’t be transferred to other flights. Instead, Skybus is either refunding people for the flights they didn’t take or re-booking them when possible. From what I caught of the news clip, there were Sky bus staff on hand to help with the snafus, but without a call center, there’s no way for anyone to get personalized help except by being at the airport.

    Cheap tickets on a cheap airline sometimes does not make for paradise, or help people get to paradise either. I’m hoping that Skybus is able to make it financially and that the issues that make people unhappy do get worked out. I’m looking forward to snagging some cheap seats somewhere one of these days. Our trip to Seattle, as I’ve posted before, was not particularly cheap, but the idea of cheap tickets is holding my interest in the airline and making me think it would be fun to go someplace Skybus goes for an inexpensive few days away. For a special occasion or an important trip, I’d probably opt for an airline with more options, though. Skybus doesn’t have flexibility built into its system. The airline is back on track today because the repairs have been made. [via USA Today]