ST. PETERSBURG, FL – October 16, 2012 – Recently, American Airlines was forced to ground 48 of its Boeing 757 planes for inspection after faulty brackets that secure airplane seats to the floor came loose. Hundreds of passengers consequently faced disruptive travel delays and interruptions. While delay and interruption are some of the most popular benefits of travel insurance, it is difficult for providers to detail every possible application in a policy’s certificate.
“Insurance coverage is triggered by specific events, based on how each policy is written,” explains Josh Walker, Product Manager at Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison site. “Because of this, we’re receiving calls about the American Airlines problem from travelers who want to know if this type of situation is covered by their policies.”
The American Airline inspections resulted in 94 canceled flights over two days. Initially, the airline cited the cause of the problem as either mechanical failure from faulty locking mechanisms or human error from improper installation. In the end, the airline blamed the mechanisms’ failures on “coking,” claiming that sugary residue from spilled drinks caused pins in the mechanisms to come loose. In terms of travel insurance benefits, the question is, would that constitute a covered mechanical failure?
In order to accurately respond to these inquiries, Squaremouth requested position statements from all of the providers on their website. “If a policy’s certificate lacks the specificity to answer questions for a certain situation, it is our practice to do whatever research necessary to provide an accurate response,” says Squaremouth CEO, Chris Harvey. “A customer will never receive the runaround or a blanket statement from us – if they need to know something, we will get them the answer.”
At the time of press, the following statements had been provided:
AMEX Assurance Company: No comment at this time.
Azimuth Risk Solutions: Travel delay is often simply a part of the experience; although one our clients would clearly prefer to avoid. Azimuth doesn’t place restrictions upon the nature of the trip delay. So long as the occurrence is otherwise eligible, various causations including weather, air quality (such as the Icelandic volcano) or even ginger-ale-loosened seating on the aircraft, Azimuth’s Beacon Series would still provide coverage and help defray the costs to the client.
CSA Travel Protection: This situation would fall under mechanical failure coverage. Also, mechanical failure/breakdown would be covered whether it was human error or not.
Global Alert Administrators: Underwriters consider the American Airlines seat issue to be mechanical breakdown.
HCC Medical Insurance Services: HCC’s travel medical plan, Atlas Travel would cover medical costs for injuries associated for such a situation if the member is traveling outside of his/her home country.
HTH Worldwide: No comment provided.
IMG: No comment at this time.
iTravelInsured: iTravelInsured plans do not specify that a travel delay claim must be due to a “mechanical failure.” We only state that the delay must be a “Travel Supplier delay” of a minimum of a specified number of hours (ranging from 6 to 24 hours depending upon the iTravelInsured plan purchased). So if a flight is delayed or cancelled as a result of the “seat mechanism failure” no matter what the cause, iTI’s Travel Delay benefit may offer some coverage relief. There is no Trip Interruption benefit under any iTravelInsured plan for the failure of the seat mechanism.
iTravelInsured plans also provide a “Missed Connection” benefit due to a “Travel Supplier Delay” that causes an Insured Person to miss a scheduled Common Carrier departure (again the delay must be for a minimum of between 5 – 8 hours, depending upon the iTI plan purchased). The failure of the seat mechanism that causes a flight to be delayed for repairs or pulled from service would be considered a “Travel Supplier Delay.”
John Hancock Insurance Agency: If there is an incident report from an airline on file supporting a delay due to a “mechanical breakdown,” it is taken at face value. It doesn’t matter what caused the mechanical breakdown. If there was a delay due to a mechanical breakdown, it would be assessed according to what the airline supports in their report.
MH Ross Travel Insurance Services: No comment provided.
Seven Corners, Inc.: No comment provided.
Travel Guard: No comment at this time.
Travel Insured International: Our trip delay coverage does not require mechanical failure. Trip Delay can be triggered by any delay of Your Common Carrier when meeting time qualifications (6 or 12 hours). In addition, Worldwide Trip Protector and Worldwide Trip Protector Gold reimburse for Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption when a covered Trip Delay causes the insured to miss more than 50% of their trip.
Travelex Insurance Services: Trip Interruption and Travel Delay coverage is available on Travelex’s Travel Basic, Select and Max policies. In the unfortunate event a traveler’s trip is delayed due to this mechanical issue, reimbursement could be considered for the nonrefundable unused portion of the trip missed, the additional transportation to get caught up with the trip, and provided the traveler is delayed in arriving to their destination by 5 hours or more, costs incurred for any meals or accommodations while the traveler is delayed.
TravelSafe: Underwriters consider the American Airlines seat issue to be mechanical breakdown.
Trawick International: Current plans don’t have cancellation or interruption due to carrier issues. Our interruption has to do with personal issues.
USI Travel Insurance Services: If the product does have coverage for carrier caused delays under Missed Connection and/or Trip Delay, this would generally be covered. Also, under the Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption benefit, if the product includes coverage for mechanical reasons and the delay is for more than 50% of their trip, there generally is coverage. Coverage only applies if proper claim documentation is supplied and the policy purchased includes the required coverage.
VacationGuard: No comment provided.
As more position statements become available, an updated list can be found at: https://www.squaremouth.com/press-room/?p=2027.
For further questions or clarification, Squaremouth customer service representatives are available Monday-Friday from 9am-9pm ET at 1-800-240-0369.
Squaremouth is America’s fastest growing travel insurance comparison site, helping customers instantly quote, compare and buy policies from every major provider. Squaremouth has an extensive network of partner sites worldwide. The company is headquartered in St. Petersburg, FL., with offices in Fort Wayne, IN. For more information, visit www.squaremouth.com.
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