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Flight Risk: How to Know When You Need to Buy Trip Insurance

If you’ve just booked the trip of your dreams, you’re probably feeling super excited. But before you start packing your sunscreen or swimsuit, there are a few more things to consider. First among them is whether or not you need to buy travel insurance and, more specifically, whether you need to buy insurance for your flights.

You may have seen the flight insurance option on the airline booking page and declined, but you can always add this option later. And, like any large investment, you’ll want to make sure you aren’t going to lose all your money. So, let’s run through a few scenarios to decide if flight insurance is the right choice for you.

1. You’ve booked and prepaid for non-refundable accommodation or activities.

Yes. In this case, it’s best to have some protection as you aren’t just protecting the money you spent on flights, but also the money you’ve spent on hotels, etc. Most flight insurance will give you a per diem pay-out, find another flight for you as quickly as possible or completely refund any money you’ve put into your trip if something goes wrong. This is especially important in situations where the airlines offer no solutions of their own – such as personal emergencies or inclement weather.

2. You found a great deal, but it’s during the season for bad weather at home or in your destination.

Yes. The best deals in the Caribbean are definitely found in the summer, right in the middle of hurricane season. And this trend generally runs true. Most destinations see lower prices when the weather is at its worst. But, you can have a week of sunny, blue skies in Cozumel in September, making these deals often worth purchasing. Just make sure you have flight insurance or some other type of travel insurance, so that if you’re stuck at home or have to remain on holiday for a few days more due to bad weather, you don’t have to foot the bill for quickly rearranging everything.

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3. You weren’t paying attention, and you booked the wrong flight.

No. Unfortunately, flight insurance doesn’t pay for your human errors. Usually, you’ll need documentation of some sort (weather statements from an airline or a doctor’s note) to make a claim.

You bought a plane ticket, but your schedule is in flux.

Yes. Sometimes, life happens. There are so many reasons to cancel a flight that aren’t normally covered by airlines or normal insurance providers. Maybe your mother has fallen ill, your sister is about to give birth or you’ve just developed a fear of flying. For this scenarios, some flight insurance offers a “cancel any time” option.

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Your trip is in a few days, but the weather service is now warning of a major storm.

No. You’d be surprised how often this scenario occurs. And those insurance agents weren’t born yesterday. If you purchase travel insurance after something bad has started to happen, it won’t be covered.

Your trip is in a few days, but you’ve just been hospitalized.

No. See above. If you didn’t buy trip insurance before getting sick, an insurance agent won’t approve your claim for compensation.

You booked a trip to a destination that you won’t go to ever again if everything goes wrong.

Yes. Several airlines offer compensation for changing or cancelling flights due to mechanical or scheduling errors. However, that compensation may simply be rerouting for a different date or a flight voucher. For example, let’s say you’ve booked a flight on Air Niugini to Papua New Guinea for a conference next month. You have no interest in visiting PNG otherwise. Your flight is suddenly cancelled and there’s no other available flights in time for the conference. The airline may offer you a flight voucher or credit to use toward another flight, but that won’t help you recoup your losses. On the other hand, flight insurance will compensate you in actual dollars.

You’ve booked your flights using a credit card which advertises trip insurance.

Maybe. Many credit cards offer this perk nowadays (ex. Chase and AMEX). You should look at what is actually covered on the credit card’s website before making an additional trip insurance purchase.

So should you buy trip insurance? In the end, flight insurance is usually a good idea. After all, you should always hedge your bets, and a dream vacation should never have to turn into a nightmare.

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