Trip Delay Protection – A Holistic Review – Part 1
Realistically, I should have posted this weeks, if not months, ago. Realistically, I should have at least one other person helping me post content, but oh well.
This post is about how you should protect your flights, award or paid. Because of how complex this can get, I give a brief overview of different types of coverage, and I’ve split it up into three parts. Note that each policy has differences that may or may not matter, so make sure to refer to the specific terms.
Airline Trip Insurance – American, Delta, and United
Not surprisingly, all three legacy carriers contract out to the same third-party trip insurance provider, Allianz Global Assistance. Allianz offers a couple of different options, and interestingly, United has fewer available, but the main ones of interest are single trip and frequent flyer trip insurance. With the exception of United, single trip insurance comes in two flavors: Trip Protector and Trip Insurance (United only has Trip Insurance). As shown below, there are some differences:
Protector gives up to $300 in delay coverage while Insurance only gives $150, but Insurance covers things like lost baggage, delayed baggage, and change fees. Thankfully, I don’t care about those things in this post, and as explained below, neither should you.
Both types of single trip coverage only kick in after 6 hours of consecutive delay. That’s fairly long, to be honest. The upside is Protector is fairly cheap. Prices vary depending on your particular itinerary, but in my tests, they were usually between $10 and $20 regardless of trip value. That’s not too bad for peace of mind. The price for Trip Insurance, on the other hand, is directly proportional to the trip value. That means it can costs multiple hundreds of dollars to get Trip Insurance whereas Trip Protector will still only cost $19 or so. If you’re going to go this route, Trip Protector (which is apparently not available with United) is definitely the way to go.
Award insurance also comes in two flavors, and as shown by the above image, they both reimburse up to $500 (after 6 consecutive hours of delay). Again, there are some differences. Interestingly, they’re both relatively cheap, with Select being more expensive. Using some test itineraries ranging in value from $500 to $20 000, the price for the regular coverage was about $15 while the price for Select was about $25. That’s not too bad.
According to the terms, coverage “[p]rovides reimbursement for additional meals, accommodations, and lost prepaid expenses if your travel is delayed for 6 or more consecutive hours.” That covers the basic necessities – food and lodging – while also reimbursing you for any prepaid expenses you may have lost out on. For example, if you booked a tour you won’t be able to make because your flight is delayed, you’ll be able to recoup those expenses, up to $500. This is an advantage over a couple other programs that don’t cover such prepaid expenses, as explained below.
USAA, the members-only savings bank (it’s not a credit union), is known for its insurance services. In this case, USAA contracts out to Travel Insured International to offer various trip insurance options. As with pretty much everything else related to USAA, you must be a member in order to purchase trip insurance.
In contrast to Allianz, USAA only offers one type of insurance that provides flight delay insurance, their “Airline Ticket Protector”. From my various tests, cost of the protection varies with how much the flight costs, and in some cases, if the flight cost too much, they will refuse to offer insurance. For example, I entered a trip value of $20 000 (realistic if you actually paid for a trans-oceanic business or first class ticket), and the system refused to offer flight insurance, opting only to offer other kinds of insurance plans that, not surprisingly, cost a fairly large amount. To give one example of how much coverage would cost, a sample $500 itinerary I input would cost $14 to insure. In speaking with a phone agent, I was told that when insuring award flights, you should enter the cost to redeposit miles back into your account. With a test value of $75, the cost was $9 to insure.
Like the Allianz plans, delay insurance only kicks in after 6 hours. Also similar to Allianz, USAA’s plan covers prepaid expenses, but it will only do so secondarily. That means that if some other party reimburses you, you won’t be able to also claim from USAA.
Unlike the Allianz plans, there are rules on how quickly you’re allowed to spend the delay coverage. Specifically, you can only expense $150 per day, up to $500 maximum.
Finally, coverages includes “reasonable accommodation, meal, telephone call and local transportation expenses”. It seems to be a very basic plan, and while that’s not bad in and of itself, there are just better options out there for trip delay protection.