“We’re sorry, but…” the gate agent begins to say. That’s when you know your trip isn’t going to proceed quite according to plan.
Every traveler has experienced some kind of hiccup in their travel plans: a short wait, a lengthy delay or even an emergency cancellation. That’s why travel insurance is so important: a good plan can reimburse you for an airport lunch or cover the thousands in prepaid trip expenses you lost because of a trip cancellation. Several travel insurance plans from Allianz Global Assistance include benefits for trip delays, trip interruptions, and trip cancellations. Here’s how they protect you.
Travel delay benefit exists to help you get through short(ish), unexpected pauses in your travel plans. It can reimburse you for lost pre-paid expenses, as well as costs you incur because of the delay, including meals, accommodations, communication and transportation. Note that for such an event to be considered a delay, it must last for the minimum time stated in your plan , for example, six hours. Also, the reason for the delay needs to be a covered reason as listed in your plan, such as a travel carrier delay or because you lost or had your travel documents stolen.
How does trip delay insurance work in real life? Let’s say your 6 p.m. flight to Orlando is grounded due to mechanical issues, and the next available flight doesn’t leave until 9 a.m. Monday morning. Here’s what trip delay insurance may cover:
There are limits, of course: travel delay benefits reimburse reasonable expenses, up to the limit shown on your letter of confirmation, for example $150/day. Don’t expect your travel insurance to pay for a lavish sushi dinner and a stay at the Ritz-Carlton.
But wait: Why do you even need travel insurance for this scenario? Aren’t airlines supposed to pay for your hotel room and meals if your flight is delayed? Not necessarily. For a routine flight cancellation in the United States, you generally have two basic contractual rights, as USA Today explains: “either one, a seat on your original airline's next available flight, or two, a refund of the unused portion of your ticket.”
Some airlines do say in their contracts that if your flight is canceled or delayed due to a reason within their control — such as a crew shortage — they may give passengers meal vouchers or hotel accommodations. But these policies vary by airline and situation and don’t offer the same coverage as travel delay insurance.
A trip interruption occurs when a traveler must unexpectedly cut short his or her trip and return home. Additionally, interruption can cause you to stay at your destination longer than originally planned (not always a bad thing, right?) Trip interruption insurance can refund lost prepaid costs, minus any available refunds and up to the maximum benefit amount, and cover the cost of your extra accommodations and/or your trip home (depending on which plan you choose).
Trip interruption insurance only applies if the interruption is caused by a covered reason. Allianz Global Assistance lists more than 20 covered reasons for interrupting or canceling your trip. Some common covered reasons include the serious covered illness or injury of the traveler, traveling companion or a family member; a natural disaster that renders your home or your destination uninhabitable; and the cessation of services by your airline, cruise line or other carrier, causing you to miss more than half your trip.
Trip interruption insurance is essential for those travel emergencies you just can’t predict. Imagine you’re in the middle of a week-long safari in the Serengeti when you receive word that your mother’s gravely ill with pneumonia and you need to return home. With the help of the travel experts on our emergency hotline team, you can get on the first available flight out of Kilimanjaro Airport and travel back to the U.S. Trip interruption insurance can help cover the cost of the flight and reimburse you for the unused portion of your safari.
One key condition to keep in mind with trip interruption is that, in order to take full advantage of the benefit, you need to inform all your travel suppliers (hotels, tour operators, etc.) within 72 hours of finding out your trip will be interrupted. So, in the heat of the moment, be sure to keep your cool and communicate your change of plans as needed.
Trip cancellation insurance covers situations when you must cancel your trip before you leave for a covered reason (generally, the same covered reasons that apply to trip interruption coverage.) Trip cancellation coverage can refund the prepaid, nonrefundable costs of your trip, such as airfare, cruise tickets, tour bookings and hotel reservations. Plus, if you prepaid for shared accommodations, and your travel companion needs to cancel their trip for a covered reason, you can be reimbursed additional accommodation fees, which is huge if you’re taking a cruise.
Similar to trip interruption, the 72-hour notification rule applies here as well. So be sure to let your airline, tour operator, cruise line and others know about the trip cancellation in a timely fashion.
What Else You Should Know When Your Trip Doesn’t Go as Planned
It’s possible for a trip delay to turn into a trip interruption if you’ve lost more than half the total length of your trip scheduled trip length due to a covered travel delay. Let’s say you’re about to about to leave for a five-day Caribbean cruise, but a blizzard grounds your Miami-bound plane for two days. By the time you get to Florida, your ship is long gone, and you can’t find a flight to its next port of call. You may be able to make a trip interruption claim.
Just remember that when your trip is delayed or interrupted, you need to do everything you can to continue your scheduled plans. Try to catch up with your cruise ship or tour group (our hotline staff can help). Document your efforts. Keep your receipts. And as we’ve mentioned, notify all your travel providers and your insurer as soon as possible once you cancel your trip. Here are some tips on how to use your trip delay benefit — and how you know it’s time to cancel the trip.
Always read your plan documents carefully so you understand your coverage, and call Allianz Global Assistance if you have any questions. Travelers covered by our insurance plans can access our hotline help team anytime at 1-800-654-1908 (from the U.S.) or 1-804-281-5700 (collect). Safe — and swift — travels!