If you travel often enough, especially in Northern Ontario, you are bound to encounter the dreaded flight delay/cancellation. While I have been lucky to rarely get stranded in a city, it is inevitable that a missed connection or a weather event would throw a wrench into the travel plans.
Fortunately, as with my last insurance post, there are ways to protect our interests and insure we get the most out of one of these unfortunate events.
Trip Delay Due to Weather
After finishing a course in Ottawa for my Master’s program, I was ready to begin my journey back home in loop Northern Ontario with a connection in Toronto. Before my trip, I checked the weather forecast in Toronto and I knew there was a good chance that I would experience a flight cancellation.
After landing at Toronto Pearson Airport, I walked towards the lounge while noticing the windows starting to frost up due to a freezing rain storm. From the lounge, I glanced at the departures screen and sure enough, the words CANCELLED flashed beside my flight number. And since all the other flights from Toronto to my destination were also cancelled, I knew my fate was a trip delay that would span overnight.
What was the first thing I did? I turned to the Golden Contract for guidance, of course. And so I began to read through the details of my trip delay coverage from eligibility to the required necessities I was entitled to purchase and claim.
Trip Delay Eligibility
Generally, in order to be eligible for flight delay insurance on a credit card, the flight must be delayed by a minimum number of 4 hours. Here is how the entitlement read for my certificate.
If due to the delay of the insured person’s incoming flight, the insured person misses a confirmed onward connecting flight and no alternative onward transportation is made available within (4) four hours of deplaning, we will pay the insured person’s necessary and reasonable living expenses incurred within forty-eight hours of deplaning and other sundry items.
Whenever you are delayed on a flight past 4 hours it’s always worthwhile to submit a claim. This is when you put the credit card’s annual fee to good use with just one successful claim of reasonable living expenses aka a scrumptious meal and/or a nice overnight hotel. You can sum up a significant Return on Annual Fee (RAF) each year from travel insurance benefits alone.
Insured Without Being the Cardholder
You may think your name must be on the card in order to be covered. This is not true for many cards. Rewinding on my trip delay in Toronto, I had actually booked my flights on my wife’s American Express SPG card to chase a minimum spend at the time.
I had read the Golden Contract in advance to ensure that myself, as the spouse, would be covered even if I was not travelling with my wife. The wording for an insured person is
a cardmember, a cardmember’s spouse, and a cardmember’s dependent children, whether travelling together or not
And the definition of a cardmember’s spouse is
the person who is legally married to the cardmember, or has been living in a conjugal relationship with the cardmember for a continuous period of at least one year and who resides in the same household
As noted in my previous post, you often have to keep referring back and forth between the policy details and the definitions to decipher the coverage.
Once you confirm that your trip would be delayed by at least 4 hours, you can call the third party insurance company to start a claim file. The claims service number would be on the insurance package or you can call number on the back of the credit card and ask to be transferred.
The claims agent indicated that I was required to save and submit all receipts and print off a screenshot of the flight cancellation on the airline’s website. She also confirmed the trip delay coverage limit was $500.
After the call, I immediately accessed Air Canada’s website to grab a PDF print of the cancellation. I then proceeded to book a stay at the Sheraton Centre, one of my favorite hotels in Toronto. I reserved my room for a total of $179.80 and off I went.
After hitting rush hour and finally checking in at the hotel, I started to feel a bit of hunger set in. While deciding where to eat for dinner, I pondered about the “reasonable food” wording in the insurance certificate. What would their definition of “reasonable” mean in terms of a dinner meal?
This is where I decided to test the “reasonable” limit by taking a stroll over to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Once I grabbed a spot at the bar I perused the menu and ordered absolutely everything I wanted. After a cocktail to start, I ordered the lobster bisque and a $65 steak with a side of creamed spinach and glass of red wine.
Usually with memorable dining experiences comes memorable dining bills. The total of $136.57 was put on my credit card, again helping with the minimum spend.
Sundry Items and Toiletries
Most card contracts include the term “sundry item” which is defined as
items such as toiletries, a magazine, a paperback book and other reasonable small item purchases as determined by us
Interesting to note, when I told the claims rep I would also be purchasing “sundry items,” she was not even familiar with the language. I assume not a lot of people claim this little know clause.
Before to heading dinner on my delayed trip, I stopped at Shoppers Drug Mart to pick up some toiletries that I was short on. I then headed over to Chapters bookstore to pick up a book from my reading list and some other reading materials. The cost of the “sundry items” purchased aqua added up to $75.65.
After submitting all of my claim documents, 30 days later, I received the following cheque in the mail.
To my delight, the full amount paid matched the full amount submitted. It looks like the insurance rep thought that my steak dinner was “reasonable”. I thought so too! The rep also paid out all my sundry items including my reading materials from the bookstore.
Other Reasonable Categories
While I have found that most cards have standard policies around baggage delay insurance, the CIBC Aerogold has a few interesting perks that set it apart from other cards.
The wording in the Aerogold contract covers accommodation and meals, but it also covers two other categories that are not seen in any other card contracts that I have reviewed.
The Company will reimburse the Cardholder up to a Limit of $100 for entertainment expenses incurred if, as the result of a covered flight delay/missed connection, the Insured person attends a ticketed event such as, but not limited to, a movie theatre, theatre, concert hall, opera or sports event.
Isn’t this an amazing benefit? To be able to charge $100 to the card issuer to see a Toronto Blue Jays game or hit a hockey game while being inconvenienced with a flight cancellation.
The Company will reimburse the Cardholder up to an Limit of $100 for ground transportation expenses if: a) As a result of a covered outbound flight delay/missed connection, the Insured Person returns directly to either the Insured Person’s principal residence or a place of overnight accommodation.
Also, it is great to see that Transportation is covered. With my claim example above, the Amex SPG did not cover my transportation costs to and from the airport.
Travel Insurance for Award Tickets
The Aerogold Visa can also be used for reward travel coverage on Aeroplan tickets. Although the reading is tricky, a deeper dive into the wording and definitions indicates coverage.
According to the Golden Contract, in order to be eligible for travel insurance,
The FULL FARE for the delayed flight was charged to the card […]
Most would think that this phrase would exclude award tickets, HOWEVER here is their definition of FULL FARE.
Full Fare – means at least seventy-five percent (75%) of the Common Carrier ticket price, which was charged to Your Card. Full Fare is extended to INCLUDE a Common Carrier ticket obtained through the redemption of points from the Card travel reward program.
At a glance the coverage uses the terms that may lead you to believe that you are not covered, but you actually are. This is a huge clause for us points junkies to stay insured on our travels.
One parting note that I should mention on flight delay is that it applies even at your home airport. I have had claims occur when I have been waiting at my home airport. This is different than baggage delay which would not apply at your home airport.
The last part of my series on credit card insurance, we will take a look at an example where I had to use Trip Cancellation coverage on an award flight to Arizona. I assure you that you don’t want to miss it 😉