Volcano insurance, anyone?

Tracy Stewart, April 19, 2010
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q. I have a trip to London scheduled to leave next week. I did buy travel insurance, but on reading the fine print of the policy or contract I'm confused as to what it actually covers. The policy is from TravelGuard. If the airline cancels my trip, will I get a full refund on my non-refundable ticket? Also, I'm planning another trip to London later this year. Do you think travel insurance companies will offer "volcano" protection going forward?



    A. In many instances, travel insurance will cover losses resulting from the recent volcano ash situation. Most policies have a natural disaster clause, and other cancelation clauses that would offer reimbursement for non-refundable expenses, such as hotel deposits or cruise fares, as well as for expenses incurred for hotels, alternate transportation, meals and so on, in the event of a delay or cancelation. The only problem is that the coverage isn't open-ended. Most policies have a daily or total limit on reimbursement, perhaps of $150 per day for expenses, for example, or $3000 in total reimbursement per incident. It really depends on the policy and the company issuing it, so read the fine print to be prepared. Most likely, if your airline cancels your flight, you'll get a full refund, even on a non-refundable ticket, so no worries there. But if you attempt to change your ticket, even if the flight is eventually canceled, you will incur a fee, so wait for the airline to act first. As for insuring against a future volcano-disrupted trip, since the Iceland volcano is now a known hazard, I find it unlikely that insurers would cover it. If you're risk adverse and have the time, you might consider crossing the Atlantic not by air, but on Cunard's  Queen Mary 2, which sails from New York to England and back all summer long. It's a quite pleasant way to travel, and the fares (in inside cabins) can be comparable to flying. However, unlike flying, there are no fees for baggage, meals, or entertainment.

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