David was one of a number of people that learned several days before Pesach that the program he paid for in advance at a hotel with a personal check was cancelled. Not wishing to disappoint his wife and children, he was forced to come up with the money to book a different program. His friend who paid with a credit card was hoping that the credit card company would reimburse him for his loss, but it turned out that even this method of payment has limitations. The operator of the failed program had counseled his would-be customers to take out travel insurance, but industry experts say that a conventional travel insurance policy would not have covered a situation like David’s.
Thankfully, David could afford to sustain the loss, which he hopes he will eventually recover. Other guests had to quickly make alternate arrangements including a few who had elderly or sick relatives. There were amongst the guests a family that had saved money for quite some time to take an elderly parent to a Pesach program.
It has become customary for airlines to offer travel insurance policies when booking tickets or vacations. If one makes an airline reservation on-line, the chances are that the airline will automatically offer travel insurance, which is usually an arrangement that they have with an insurance company like Allianz. The insurance company may send the traveler a policy as well as confirmation that the policy has been purchased.
There are many things beyond a traveler’s control such as illness, weather, and flight delays. In these situations, travel insurance can reimburse the traveler up to 100%. But as it turns out David would not have benefitted from the standard travel insurance policy he purchased since it would not pay for the cancellation of a Pesach program or any other vacation. Even David’s friend, who paid with a credit card for several rooms, found out that the credit card company would only refund up to a maximum of $10,000.
Some Pesach program operators are reticent about accepting credit cards to begin with, not so much because of the 3% cost, but because customers can always challenge a charge. A complaint like the food was not up to par could be sufficient to reverse a charge. Without the option of paying by credit card and the limitations on conventional travel insurance policies, there is really no way to secure advanced payments for vacations or a program on a Yom Tov and other times. It boils down to making choices based on the reputation of the operator and a track record of delivering a superb product and service.
There is one type of policy that could have saved the day for David and the other affected guests known as “Cancel Anytime.” For example, Allianz Travel Insurance offers a Cancel Anytime optional upgrade on most of its popular plans. Cancel Anytime can reimburse 80% of lost non-refundable trip costs which would certainly cover a cancelled vacation. Allianz is one of the nation’s largest insurance companies to write travel insurance policies. Others include Travel Guard by AIG, USI Affinity Travel Insurance Services, Travel Insured International, World Nomads, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travelex Insurance Services, Seven Corners, IMG, AXA Assistance USA, and AAA.
Audrey made plans to attend a friend’s wedding in Hawaii only to learn that the couple broke up and that the wedding was called off. It was too late to get a refund from the resort or the airline. The resort required 14-day notice and the airline ticket was non-refundable. Because she did not have the Cancel Anytime upgrade on her travel insurance policy, her choices were limited. A canceled wedding isn’t covered under the standard travel insurance plan. With Cancel Anytime, she could have filed a claim and get a refund of 80% of her prepaid, nonrefundable costs. In some policies, Cancel Anytime allows cancellation as late as the day of departure but it varies from insurance company to insurance carrier. This upgrade is also not available in all states. Most “cancel for any reason” plans require you to cancel no later than 48 hours before a trip is scheduled to begin.
Doni Schwartz of www.myjewishlistings.com says that he is considering offering the policies next year Pesach as a service to people who book through his site. He and other travel experts in our community say that at a time when kosher travel is soaring it is imperative for people to consider the upgraded travel insurance policy. Sender had booked a vacation for him and his wife to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in the Far East. When his daughter got engaged he assumed that the travel insurance he bought would cover the cancellation. When Sender called the company, they politely told him that illness was the only excuse they would entertain.
One insurance broker advised that one of the most important aspects of collecting insurance is to have documentation. If the reason is medical, a report from a physician or hospital is essential. A young couple that was in an automobile accident were asked to produce a police report in addition to medical records.
Covid added some interesting nuances, particularly in international travel. For customers purchasing a new travel protection plan, many of the plans include an Epidemic Coverage Endorsement, which adds epidemic-related covered reasons for certain benefits. Benefits vary by plan and by state of residence and are not available in all jurisdictions. Allianz also offers certain temporary accommodations. One importer who travels extensively in Asia ended up being quarantined. At the airport he was asked for $2,300 for the quarantined room or he would not be allowed to leave. He was reimbursed by his insurance company.
Taking out travel insurance should not be viewed as an extra or a luxury. It is necessary protection for anything that goes awry. On Pesach in particular there has been a spate of cancellation of programs in recent years, some almost at the last moment. In most cases, operators refund the money but in some cases it was difficult to get the money back. Taking out a good travel insurance policy can simply avoid a great deal of grief.