your nonrefundable airline tickets|
You worked hard for your vacation.
Then you spent hours making your plans. And since you are on a budget, you picked
the cheapest airline tickets, the nonrefundable "use-it-or-lose-it"
What happens when you don't make
your flight because your father has a heart attack or your car breaks down on
your way to the airport?
You're out of luck, unless
you purchased ticket protector insurance, offered by Continental, Northwest and
America West airlines, and several travel Web sites.
you might still be out of luck, depending on your policy and what made you miss
your flight. Ticket protector insurance is by no means a cure-all.
Perkins, travel expert and author of "Online
Travel" and "Business
Travel: When It's Your Money," calls ticket protector insurance a "lite"
version of trip-cancellation and trip-interruption insurance.
of buying insurance that covers all your bases, like your hotel, car rental or
most anything else, you are solely protecting your flight," says Perkins.
Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia have offered ticket protector
insurance for years. The cost is around 4 percent of your ticket cost and it covers
a ticket up to $3,000. But before you click, buy and fly, make sure you know exactly
what this insurance covers and where you fall under the "covered reasons."
The covered reasons are very important to understand
because it could mean the difference between a full refund and lost money.
reasons usually include medical emergencies, car accidents, terrorist attacks,
airline delays or cancellations, natural disasters, death of traveler or family
member, adverse weather, airline strikes and jury duty. But those covered reasons
may be defined more narrowly than you expect.
a medical emergency such as a heart attack or a broken leg would be covered. However,
if you have an existing condition such as epilepsy and you have a seizure two
days before your scheduled departure, you will not be covered. The insurance will
not cover you for a medical condition already being treated.
consider weather conditions. Say you are traveling to a hurricane-prone area and
a Category 4 hurricane is set to hit your destination just days before your arrival.
If you cancel your flight, you will not get your money back unless the airline
cancels the flight or the airport is closed.
This was a particular
sore spot for Robert Wells and his family, who purchased ticket-protector insurance
before their vacation in September 2004. Wells called to cancel his family's flight
one day before his arrival airport was closed, due to the incoming hurricane,
only to be told that he would not get a refund because he jumped the gun by canceling
before the airport was officially closed.
Emily Porter, vice
president of marketing for Access America, says most people who purchase ticket
protector insurance assume the insurance covers everything. "They need to
sit down and read the fine print and understand exactly what is and isn't covered."
strikes also fall under covered reasons, but you already have some protection
through a law that requires airlines to honor tickets from competitors in the
event of a strike or a shutdown. However, if you were one of the 70,000-plus stranded
British Airways passengers at Heathrow Airport recently, the U.S. law had no bearing
on your situation.