You’re all set to take to the skies when your airline pulls the pin. If you’re caught up in a flight delay or worse, cancellation, here’s what you need to know.
Australia is an island girt by sea, a sea that separates globe-trotting Aussies from their favourite holiday spots. So by plane we go, with kangaroo-hops and middle-east stops the name of the game. Much flying, much room for error.
With the amount of flying we do by necessity, Australian travellers are highly exposed to flight delays, re-routings and cancellations. The stats are grim. On a typical day, roughly 10,000 flights are cancelled globally, with 16,300 being delayed. This according to data from FlightStats, part of Cirium, a commercial aviation data services company.
When these events take place, the costs to get back on track can escalate. In most cases, it’s your airline’s job to sort your out, by placing you on the next available flight, booking you with a code-share partner, and putting you up in a hotel, should an overnight stay be required.
We know that 8% of Australian adults travelled without travel insurance on their last overseas trip. That is 850,000 visits by Australians overseas without insurance, according to a 2016 survey commissioned by the Australian Government and the Insurance Council of Australia. Insuring domestic travel lies even further down the priority list of Aussie travellers. Notwithstanding the high costs of airfares to local hotspots like Cairns and Broome, routes which also come with limited options for re-booking flights.
In most cases, it’s your airline’s job to sort your out, by placing you on the next available flight, booking you with a codeshare partner, and putting you up in a hotel, should an overnight stay be required.
But airlines are not always able to cover all the related costs, and their solutions are not always the most viable option for your particular circumstances. This is where having the right level of travel insurance comes in.
A basic form of travel insurance is often provided by your bank when purchasing airfares by credit card. But be warned that this cover may not be sufficient with many hidden rules and exclusions. Paying by credit card is a good idea, however, in that credit card chargeback is one of two ways you could get your money back if your travel provider goes broke. This is only because there are consumer protection rules associated with the use of Visa, MasterCard and American Express credit cards.
But in the case of recouping out of pocket expenses, should alternative arrangements fall on your shoulders, being under-insured could be just as unhelpful as having no insurance at all.
My flight’s been cancelled, now what?
If your flight is delayed or cancelled, it’s going to be your airline’s job to sort you out, especially on international trips, (thank you Article 19 of the Montreal Convention). That means placing you on the next available flight within their airline, or re-booking your journey on a code-share or partner airline. This works well in most cases, especially if you find yourself stranded in a major hub like Heathrow or Changi.
Even so, a cancelled or missed flight can result in many hours lost, and even a night in a hotel, as you wait to do it all again. Your flight can also be re-routed, so a straightforward 11hr flight from Amsterdam to Cape Town becomes a 19 hour fixer-upper as your get placed on route via Oman.
As inconvenient as their solution may be, if your journey is with one carrier – you should be fine. Even if you miss your connection, your airline must ensure get on another flight, and they should provide a voucher for meals, and accommodation if long delays are expected.
What to do
- Immediately call your airline and ask them to rebook you onto another flight. This could get you a seat faster than by joining the long queues forming at your airline’s service desk.
- If a call is not possible, get in line. Be alert for changes of plan, with customer service desks closing and opening, or being asked to move to a different area of the airport, as capacity issues start to take hold.
- Be nice to the ground crew. Remaining calm and be friendly is your best bet for getting rebooked on to another flight and getting to your destination as soon as possible. Deep breaths!
- If the cancellation leads to an overnight delay for you, your airline should provide you with a hotel room for that night.
- If you end up on a shuttle to an airport hotel, grab a seat near the front of the bus so that you can check in before all the other stranded passengers who will also be staying at that hotel. Book your return shuttle then and there.
- Your airline will reroute your checked baggage to your destination
- No toothbrush? Ask your airline for a basic amenity kit, usually available from an airline’s baggage service office (located near baggage claim).
I missed my flight!
If you are booked on two different airlines, and you miss your connecting flight, you could have a problem! The second airline does not have the responsibility to put you on another flight just because of the first carriers’ delay.
Word to the wise
Because travel insurance does not cover for missed connections caused by the airlines, you might not be covered for the cost to buy a new airline ticket. That’s why it’s absolutely a good idea to book connecting flights with one airline only.
Cover your travelling companions on the same policy
We can also cover your travelling companions who don’t require medical screening on the same policy. This means that they will also have cover for cancellation due to your medical condition. If they are insured by another provider, that may not be the case.
My airline won’t rebook me
In most cases, your airline is charged with getting you to where you need to be. And this usually works out ok, save for the inconvenience of lost time. You’re going to want to call your insurer when stakes get high, or the waters get murky.
With the correct level of cover in place (typically comprehensive), there’s a stack of ways that travel insurance can assist with airline and flight mishaps.
Travel with Kit covers cancellation events under our Cancellation Cost benefit on Basic, Comprehensive and Domestic cover levels.
My delayed flight is costing me money
If your flight is cancelled, rescheduled or delayed travel insurance should pay you for reasonable additional expenses for accommodation, meals and transfers between transport terminals and accommodation where you are delayed for six hours or more.
Travel with Kit will also cover the cost of your unusable, non-recoverable, pre-paid accommodation, transfers, tours, events and attractions if you are unable to reach your next destination on time. If you make a claim under both of these covers, we will pay the higher of the two.
Travel with Kit covers flight delays under our Travel Delay Expenses benefit on Basic, Comprehensive and Domestic cover levels.
I’m late for a very important date
Flight complications can spiral into a nightmare, if you’re travelling for a special event, say, to your own wedding. Getting caught in a lengthy delay is no way to start your happily ever after, so this is where travel insurance can cover the cost of whatever you needed to do – within reason – to get to your destination wedding. In this case, travel insurance would cover the cost of booking a new flight all-together or upgrading you to an available business class seat on the next flight out.
As with most non-life threatening benefits, you’ll be paying the new travel costs upfront, with your insurer paying you out, less any applicable excess, once you’ve submitted a claim. A payout usually takes 5-10 working days, so be quick to claim.
Travel insurance should cover missed flight expenses (travel, meals and accommodation) if:
- you miss your connecting flight due to a car accident (or rail, bus, marine)
- you miss your flight because of natural disasters, weather events, or riots, strikes or civil commotion. The event must have begun after your insurance policy was issued – in other words – the events were unexpected.
- you miss your flight due to being unfit to travel, as certified by medical practitioner. You will need this in writing and it cannot be due to a pre-existing medical condition unless this was disclosed and covered. The same would apply if your travel companion becomes ill.
- your passport or travel documents are lost of stolen
- you accidentally break a quarantine regulation
Travel with Kit calls these benefits ‘Emergency non-medical expenses’. Available on Saver, Basic, Comprehensive and Domestic plans.