US-based travel insurance comparison site InsureMyTrip recently reported an increase in calls from concerned travellers, due to the latest wave of flight cancellations. On Thursday 13 February, over 6,200 flight cancellations and another 3,700 delays left many travellers stranded as another major snow storm pounded the East Coast. According to InsureMyTrip, travellers can best protect themselves against the financial impact of flight cancellations and delays by purchasingtravel insurance in advance of their trip.
"If you're concerned about winter weather affecting travel in your city of departure, destination city, or really, anywhere — that ripple effect is a tough reality of air travel — thentravel insurance is one of the best investments you can make," says CEO Jim Grace. "This season we have observed an unprecedented number of flight delays and cancellations nationwide and more travellers are turning totravel insurance to safeguard their investment."
For weather-related coverage, travellers should consider the following options:
Trip Cancellation: This coverage, which is included in all of the comprehensive policies sold on InsureMyTrip.com, will help you recoup any pre-paid, non-refundable expenses related to your trip if you cancel your plans due to a delay of 24-48 hours or more (make sure you understand what the specific time frame is for the policy you choose).
Trip Delay: Again, this protection is included in our comprehensive policies, and allows you to file for reimbursement of unexpected expenses you might incur as a result of a shorter (but still significant) delay– usually 6 hours or more. If you need to purchase meals, for example, or pay for overnight lodging to avoid sleeping on the airport benches, travel delay coverage can help cover those incidental costs.
Trip Interruption: This coverage is always included in travel insurance comprehensive plans. It's a benefit that offers travellers reimbursement of their pre-paid, non-refundable expenses should their travels be unexpectedly interrupted or cut short. Important things to note when you're researching Trip Interruption benefits include exclusions and special coverage options.
Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR): This is a specific type of travel insurance coverage which offers travellers the opportunity to change their plans for reasons other than those that are listed as "covered reasons" on theirtravel insurance policies. While most travel insurance policies will provide benefits only if you cancel your trip for a reason that's listed in your policy details, CFAR allows you to bypass that list, giving you greater flexibility and freedom of choice when you're making important decisions about following through with your travel plans. This highly desirable benefit is usually offered as part of a Comprehensive Plan, but may only be available if you meet certain criteria; typically, you'll be required to purchase yourtravel insurance policy within a specified time frame (usually within 7-30 days of making your initial trip payment) in order to be eligible for CFAR.
Squaremouth, which terms itself ‘America's fastest-growing travel insurance comparison site’, also got involved in the debate as to how travel insurance can help out in extreme weather situations, explaining three lessons travellers can learn from the polar vortex.
Timing is Critical
This season, 16 winter storms have been named. These names play a vital role in travel insurance coverage. Typically, if a policy is purchased after a winter storm is named, it will not cover any travel delay or flight cancellation related to that storm. "We don't expect travellers to be meteorologists," says Squaremouth CEO, Chris Harvey, "it can be difficult to predict a storm, so travellers whose trips are vulnerable to winter weather should consider purchasing a travel insurance policy well in advance."
Coverage isn't Always Immediate
In January of 2014, 33,000 flights were cancelled due to winter storms. Cancellation policies typically cover a flight that is cancelled due to weather, however most require the flight to be cancelled for a specific time period, ranging from 12 to 48 hours. "Travellers who are especially concerned about weather should consider CSA policies," adds Harvey, "CSA's policies do not require a specific time period to pass before coverage is available.
Drivers May Have Limited Coverage
Earlier this year, Atlanta made headlines with reports of drivers trapped on the highway for hours. In most cases, a driving delay due to weather is not covered under a travel insurance policy, even if it is en route to the airport. "Travellers who want coverage while driving should consider travel insurance services as these policies extend coverage to travellers who are driving," advises Harvey.
It remains unknown if the polar vortex will return next year. If so, travellers who are proactive and who research the policies available to them can have help weathering the winter storms.