As Tropical Storm Barry makes landfall on the Gulf Coast this weekend, people planning to fly in and out of New Orleans and surrounding cities are trying to adjust with updates and predictions on the weather. But some airlines are making the process easier for passengers affected by the storm by waiving change fees and working with customers to reroute and reschedule their reservations.
Among those carriers are United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Spirit Airlines and JetBlue are among the airlines putting up pages on their websites for passengers to check and putting policies into place that will prevent chaos and unnecessary layovers in airports as the storm blows through the region.
Meanwhile, the procurement of travel insurance to protect against delays and costs of weather episodes is a question getting more and more attention as hurricane season in the U.S. gets underway. Travellinsurance.com answers some of these questions:
Do I really need to purchase travel insurance just in case there is a hurricane?
Hurricanes, along with other types of storms and unpredictable weather, can and do frequently derail travel plans. If you are traveling from, or headed to, an area that is prone to hurricanes, purchasing travel insurance is a wise move if you want to protect your investment.
Will travel insurance cover me if my flight is delayed or cancelled in the event of a hurricane?
Yes. Trip cancellation coverage provides travelers reimbursement for their insured trip costs if they have to cancel prior to their departure date due to a covered reason. Most trip cancellation plans include coverage for unexpected natural disasters such as hurricanes if the event causes either an extended shutdown in carrier services or renders the destination uninhabitable. Some travel insurance plans will even cover official hurricane warnings by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the agency that tracks and forecasts tropical storms and hurricanes.
Will travel insurance cover me if my trip is interrupted by a hurricane?
Yes. Trip interruption coverage will reimburse the unused, non-refundable portions of a trip if a traveler has to cancel and abandon a trip after it’s already started. The covered reasons in a travel insurance plan for trip interruption are usually the same as the covered reasons for trip cancellation. Some plans will offer a coverage limit for trip interruption that’s more than the amount insured under trip cancellation in order to account for any extra expenses incurred to get home early.
What if my destination is damaged during a storm, but it happens before I leave?
If your destination is made uninhabitable by a hurricane or other natural disaster, trip cancellation will provide coverage.
What if I am affected by a storm, but it does not turn into a named hurricane?
Any severe weather that prevents you from traveling to your destination or affects your ability to stay at your destination will likely be covered under the Trip Delay or Trip Cancellation benefits. This includes severe tropical or winter storms. But again, if the tropical or winter storm is named, it is no longer possible to purchase insurance to protect against it.
What if I am concerned about a storm, but the airline has not cancelled service – can I get reimbursed if I decide to cancel?
This depends on the type of insurance you purchase and what your plan includes. For example, some plans offer trip cancellation coverage for hurricane warnings at your destination issued by NOAA, if the insurance is purchased before the storm is named. The other option is to purchase a Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) upgrade, which allows the insured to cancel their trip for any reason. CFAR is typically only available as an option at the time the policy is purchased and requires the traveler to insure 100% of their pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs. And importantly, the traveler must purchase the policy within a set number of days (usually 7-21 days) of their initial trip payment date. With CFAR, either 50% or 75% of the trip costs will be reimbursed, depending on the plan selected.
When should I purchase travel insurance and how soon is it effective?
While a policy can be purchased up until the day before you depart, it’s best to purchase travel insurance soon after making the first payment towards the trip. And most importantly the travel insurance should be purchased before a disruptive event happens. Some benefits and coverages are available only if you’ve purchased your policy within a short window, which typically ranges from 7-21 days from the date you make your initial payment. Time-sensitive benefits include CFAR and a Pre-existing Condition Exclusion Waiver. Travel insurance plans become effective on the day immediately after you purchase it.
How much does travel insurance cost?
There are several factors that go into the cost of an insurance plan, but typically travel insurance plans cost between 4% and 10% of the total trip costs. The biggest factors that affect the policy price are the age of travelers and the amount of trip costs.
“The most important thing to remember is to buy your travel insurance early and before a storm is named,” said Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com. “Especially during the annual hurricane season from June to November, we recommend purchasing travel insurance immediately after making the first purchase toward your trip to make sure you are covered when that unexpected snafu happens.”