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Conception Bay South senior faced long wait for travel insurance claim

WestJet will begin offering non-stop flights on a seasonal bases between Halifax and Manchester, U.K. beginning on June 5.  File /
- SaltWire Network File Photo

At 82 and coping with a health struggle, Ray Rose could put $1,000 to better use than waiting to use a travel bank credit for a future trip that seems unlikely.

The Conception Bay South man contacted The Telegram after reading stories about travel insurance problems.

When The Telegram began inquiring about his situation, a long wait for the claim to be processed turned into a quick turnaround, according to Rose.

“Thanks to you,” he said of getting a refund of the eligible claimed amount under his travel insurance policy.

“I don’t think they would have processed (so timely) it without you.”

He and his wife were in Florida when the federal government issued the travel advisory for Canadians to come home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to a delay in trying to get their return flight rebooked through WestJet, they bought new tickets home, returning March 19 instead of the planned April 4.

When they got back to Newfoundland, they had to self isolate and then Rose contacted RBC Insurance about a travel claim. He said he had some trouble trying to get RBC Insurance to confirm they got the claim, after it went astray in the mail and he had to fax it.

And within the last couple weeks, he said he was told he would have to wait 15 weeks for the claim to be processed.

In the meantime, he wasn’t keen on a WestJet travel bank credit for a portion of the airfare they lost out on. (In the WestJet frequently asked questions, it says credits can be transferred to someone else with an account.upon request.)

“I may never use it,,” he said.

“There are very serious and realistic reasons why it sometimes doesn’t make sense to put it in a travel bank.”

An RBC Insurance spokeswoman told The Telegram by email the company is currently helping tens of thousands of Canadians with their travel claims due to COVID-19, and because of the unprecedented number of claims and the changing environment with the airlines and cruise lines, 15 weeks is roughly the time it is taking to get through claims.

She said, however, Rose’s claim has been paid in accordance with his travel insurance policy.

As for passengers with future travel credits or vouchers, but are worried about the financial viability of those airlines, who issued the vouchers for flights or vacations packages, RBC Insurance isn’t saying it will reject the claim outright.

“No, RBC Insurance is working hard to help our clients and recover whereever possible. It has always been our policy that customers who purchased trip cancellation coverage prior to March 13 will be reimbursed for the non-refundable portion of their airline ticket,” said spokeswoman Kira Famula.

“They need to have purchased trip cancellation, or have coverage on their credit card, and the travel advisory does need to be active on their departure date, so it’s best if consumers contact our claims team to discuss their specific travel situation.”

Different companies, different policies

Will McAleer, executive director at the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA) said via email that while THIA does not keep statistics on member processing time, members are processing and paying claims around the clock as a result of the unprecedented number of claims filed.

With the travel advisory against all non-essential travel in effect, airlines and insurance companies alike fielded significantly higher call volumes related to the associated travel disruptions, he said.

Each insurance company has different policies when it comes to what’s eligible to be reimbursed.

Since travel insurance will cover insureds only for non-refundable losses as a result of a covered risk (flight cancellation), there may not be a ‘loss’ as defined under each policy, McAleer noted.

But that doesn’t always mean customers are stuck with vouchers that might be worthless because of circumstance.

“Many insurers are allowing for re-opening of claims should vouchers expire or should an airline be unable to honour that voucher. Beyond insurance, there may also be the ability for travellers to be refunded on their credit card, in the case of airline bankruptcy,” he said.

As for previous stories The Telegram has told regarding people who have annual travel insurance policies (instead of buying per trip), how companies handle doesn’t appear to be standard either.

(In the case of some who have contacted The Telegram, they were told they had to keep paying their premiums and there was no deferment.)

“Most annual travel insurance plans are paid for in whole at the original time of purchase. In these cases, we have seen some companies offering additional credit for future travel given the current travel restrictions,” McAleer said.

“There are some annual plans whereby instalment payment programs are available. In these cases, the premium is simply deferred and is often earned at the beginning of the policy. Our advice would be to contact your insurer to seek some relief for the remaining payments, since travel is no longer possible.”

@BarbSweetTweets


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