Flightmare: Thousands of flights canceled, delayed; do you need insurance?

Flight disruptions have become the new norm this season as the airline industry battles several headwinds, including and most notably, ongoing staff shortages as well as weather and air traffic control constraints.

In the days leading up to the Fourth of July, Airlines have already canceled and delayed thousands of flights. As a result, some passengers may feel inclined to nab insurance as added protection.

However, FOX Business talked to travel insurance experts who say that while insurance might work in some cases, it’s not always necessary. If you do opt for the added protection, experts also say it’s vital to read the fine print first because certain policies might not always cover what you’d expect. This includes policies offered through the airline’s website as well as through third-party companies.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
DAL DELTA AIR LINES INC. 31.80 +0.10 +0.32%
UAL UNITED AIRLINES HOLDINGS INC. 36.75 +0.01 +0.03%
JBLU JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORP. 8.43 +0.06 +0.66%
AAL AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC. 13.71 -0.05 -0.36%

The pros and cons of getting insurance:

“If the airline ticket is the only travel expense, and the only concern is for an issue that the airline will work with you on, then it may not make sense to buy insurance,” Meghan Walch, director of product for travel insurance comparison site InsureMyTrip, told FOX Business.

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Walch said this may only work for travelers that are willing and able to reschedule their flight within the timeframe that the airline is giving, though.

On top of that, “you would be relying on the airline to hold up their end of the bargain if it is more of a business decision and not something written in the airline contract,” Walch said.

Travelers check departure screens for their flight status at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh/AP Newsroom)

On the other hand, if passengers have set days for their trip, and other expenses they could lose out on in the event of a delay or cancelation, “then it may be a good idea to look into and compare third party insurance that can offer coverage for the entire duration and prepaid non-refundable cost of the trip”, she said.

“For example, I am taking a flight to catch a cruise. If you don’t have insurance and your flight is delayed, the airline may offer to book you on a later flight, but you may stand to lose out on part of, If not all of the cruise,” Walch said.

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For trip delays, depending on the plan, passengers can get some coverage to help offset the costs of an extra night of accommodations and food while you wait for another flight, Suzanne Morrow, senior vice president of InsureMyTrip, told FOX Business.

Trip interruption is a benefit that offers travelers reimbursement of their pre-paid, non-refundable expenses should they unexpectedly need to cut their travels short, Morrow added. A good example is if you need to book an emergency flight home.

flight delays

Flight cancellations are seen on the information board at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. (Shinji Kita/Kyodo News via AP / AP Newsroom)

Insurance can also help a passenger with reimbursing “additional expenses, such as food or accommodations needed while you are stuck at the airport or overnight in a hotel, as well as expenses (up to the limit in the policy) to help you catch up to the cruise,” Walch said.

Some insurance plans can also cover things like baggage loss and medical emergencies.

However, that doesn’t mean travelers without insurance are out of luck. Carriers will still try and accommodate passengers if flights are disrupted, especially due to involuntary changes.

Travel waivers, for instance, allow passengers to change or rebook their trip for free if uncontrollable events, such as severe weather, impact flight and travel dates. In a particularly rare move, Delta Air Lines even issued a travel waiver ahead of the busy Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
DAL DELTA AIR LINES INC. 31.80 +0.10 +0.32%
AAL AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC. 13.71 -0.05 -0.36%
LUVs SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. 38.09 -0.08 -0.21%

“We expect to carry customer volumes over the weekend not seen since before the pandemic,” Delta said.

The waiver, valid from Friday through Monday, will allow travelers to rebook trips either before or after those peak holiday travel days with no fare difference or change fees.

Southwest Airlines told FOX business that if a customer’s flight has been “affected by an involuntary change” they can change their flight by up to 14 days from the original travel date for free.

American Airlines explained on its website under its “involuntary refunds” section that it will refund passengers if the carrier “failed to operate on schedule (a delay to your departure time of over 4 hours) or we refused to let you fly for reasons other than your violation of this contract.”

Read the fine print: Some plans won’t cover everything

Depending on what insurance a passenger buys, whether it’s directly from the airline’s website or through a third-party service, there are different levels of coverage. flight, even if you’re rebooked days later, according to Morrow.

travelers airport

Travelers walk to their gates at the Philadelphia International Airport on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez/AP Newsroom)

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“As long as you don’t lose any money, you’re not getting any money back,” Morrow said. “At the end of the day, insurance is designed to make somebody whole…so if you didn’t lose money, you don’t have a claim.”

If a flight is canceled, but the passenger ends up getting rebooked, they’re not out any money, she added.

Also, something to be wary of is that some less expensive policies won’t even cover delayed trips unless they are delayed for a significant amount of time, Morrow said.

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In certain cases, airlines will offer coverage for trip interruptions and trip delays, but their website might say for a “covered” reason.

“That’s where they’re going to get you,” she said. “You want to make sure you understand what’s covered and what’s excluded because the exclusions are where they’re really going to catch you.”

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