- The latest surge in Covid infections due to the Omicron variant is wreaking havoc with airline schedules.
- While in many cases airlines must refund or compensate affected passengers for cancellations, this is not always the case.
- “Cancel for any reason” insurance plans, while expensive, are the surest way to protect against bad vacations.
Air travel is disrupted this week by a national surge in COVID infections, and many worried Americans may be wondering whether or how to ensure – and insure – upcoming or planned trips.
According to the website, more than 2,221 flights were canceled across the country on Thursday alone information about flying, It was the 12th day in a row that airlines canceled more than 1,000 flights as employees with Omicron or Delta variants of the virus were called to the carriers already short-staffed and sickened by the country’s winter season.
“These blockages are crazy right now,” said Jeremy Murchland, president of travel insurer Seven Corners in Carmel, Indiana. “I’ve never seen anything like this myself.”
He said passenger inquiries at Seven Corners, which sells both comprehensive travel insurance policies and only medical coverage plans, have doubled compared to last week or the last few months of 2021.
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The good news is that, under federal law, if your airline cancels or “significantly alters” your flight and you choose not to travel, the carrier will offer you a refund of the original form of payment. pays. “It’s as simple as that,” said Willis Orlando, senior product operations specialist at Scott’s Cheap Flights.
However, there are two caveats, he said. First, airlines can set their own definition of “critical”.
“Some, such as United, consider any change of 30 minutes or more, while others, such as American, generally will not offer a refund for changes of less than four hours,” Orlando said, adding that most Other carriers “fall somewhere in between.”
Secondly, airlines are not required to compensate passengers for anything other than the cost of the ticket if there is a delay or cancellation. So if you are delayed, but choose to wait and travel, you may not get any relief – financial or otherwise.
“Very [carriers] To do so, as a way to maintain customer loyalty and maintain their brand image,” Orlando said. “However, typically even airlines that regularly operate such casual offer compensation, sometimes when it comes to mechanical failures, weather, or others. Events ‘out of their control'”
What if it’s not just one or two flights that are affected, but an entire vacation, such as hotel stays, car rentals, attraction tickets and more? Or, what if the problem is not the travel itself, but being able to test for COVID before, during or after the trip? That’s where trip insurance comes in.
“If people are nervous about their travel being interrupted, or don’t want to travel, travel insurance can be a good option,” Orlando said. “We recommend that you do your homework and look for a well respected policy that is really ‘cancel for any reason’.”
The Cancel for Any Reason, or CFAR, plans are exactly the same: You can cancel for any reason for a full refund, possibly minus administrative fees. Although standard, less generous travel insurance plans typically cost 4% to 8% of the travel purchase price, CFAR coverage can often add up to 50% more on top of the actual travel cost, according to Murchland at Seven Corners.
“It’s a premium, but, again, it’s about peace of mind right now,” he said. “Many people still want to travel but it’s a worry about travel and what happens ‘if’.”
Megan Moncrieff, chief marketing officer of online travel insurance marketplace Squaremouth.com, cautions travelers to double-check with their airline before purchasing any additional insurance.
“A lot of carriers are still refunding fares or allowing passengers to transfer their travel dates or obtain travel vouchers,” she said. “We certainly do not recommend [travel insurance] If you can get your money back somewhere else.”
In addition, CFAR plans are typically available for purchase from 14 days to 21 days after the initial booking of a flight or package, Moncrieff said.
“Most policies purchased on our site for international travel are 30 days prior to travel,” she said, meaning most US customers of St. Petersburg, Florida-based Squaremouth go abroad with less comprehensive plans. reimbursement criteria.
This isn’t an issue if you’re concerned about contracting COVID abroad and perhaps being in quarantine abroad for a period of time, as many standard plans cover, Moncrieff said. “When you’re abroad, you get medical coverage if you’re hospitalized, for example, plus additional housing and transportation costs if you’re isolated and can’t return home,” she said. “It can increase after you, usually for seven days, sometimes more. [original] Planned return date.”
Moncrieff sees access to COVID testing as a potentially big problem for Americans traveling abroad. “It seems there is just a glitch with air travel right now, and testing the Super Back Up – with many countries tightening their entry requirements – is just a perfect storm.
“Where we’re headed is probably in terms of issues for travelers: You have everything planned out, your destination is open but now you can’t logically get your test done on time,” she said. One CFAR plan will cover you, while most others will not.
“If you are concerned about contracting COVID, a standard travel insurance policy is fine,” Moncrieff said. “If you have any other COVID-related concerns, you may wish to cancel for any reason.”
Scott’s Cheap Flights to Orlando says travelers should familiarize themselves with the protection credit card issuers offer.
“Many credit cards these days have built-in trip interruption insurance, or better yet, which will often cover just as much, if not more, than trip insurance purchased separately,” he said.
“You’d be amazed at how many people have benefited from this and they never take advantage of it because they don’t know it exists,” Orlando said. “You’re paying an annual fee for your credit card, so we can’t recommend it enough enough to read up on the benefits and potentially save yourself the trouble of looking at travel insurance.”
If you do opt for additional insurance, Murchland at Seven Corners recommends turning to a professional for guidance. “Okay, be your own travel agent and book your flight, hotel and car, but then talk to an agent and make sure you’re getting the right travel insurance,” he advised. “Don’t try to explain things to yourself in this current environment; it’s not worth it.”
And if you don’t want to spring for the more expensive CFAR coverage? “Get at least one plan that has coverage for trip cancellation, trip delay, and trip interruption. Those three conditions are important,” Murchland said.