Trip Interruption

What is trip interruption coverage and how is it different from trip delay coverage? Take the following examples:

Scenario #1:  Joe is flying from Seattle to Miami to catch a 10 day cruise. He has to change planes in Denver. The Denver airport is snowed in for 18 hours forcing Joe to miss his connection with the Miami flight. By the time he makes it to Miami the ship has already sailed. The first port of call where Joe can catch up with the ship is two days away. Joe will have to stay in Miami for two nights and buy an air ticket to the next port of call.

Scenario #2:  Fred is taking a three week motorcoach tour through Europe. Halfway through he becomes ill. The doctor makes him stay at his hotel for three nights to recuperate. He has missed three days of the tour and has additional expenses to catch up with the tour.

Here's the definition of the trip interruption coverage provided by the Global Alert plan. Other plans will be similar in most respects but please be sure to check the plan certificate of whatever plan you choose.

BENEFITS: Post-Departure Interruption

We will reimburse you, less any refund paid or payable, for unused land or water travel arrangements, plus one of the following:

(1) the additional transportation expenses incurred by you if your Trip is interrupted, either:

    (a) to the return destination; or 
    (b) from the place that you left the Trip to the place that you may rejoin the Trip;

(2) the additional transportation expenses incurred by you to reach the original trip destination if you are delayed and leave after the Scheduled Departure Date

Let's look at Joe's situation in scenario #1. First, you need to determine if the cause of the interruption was due to a covered reason. In this case weather is a covered reason under the trip interruption benefit with Global Alert.

Did Joe have any pre-paid, unused travel arrangements? Yes, he's lost two of the ten days that he paid for on the cruise. Will he be reimbursed for these lost days by the airline or the cruise line? No. The weather situation was an act of god and neither the airline nor the cruise line owe him anything.

Will Joe have any additional expenses due to the interruption? Yes. He's going to have to buy an air ticket to the first port of call.

What can Joe file a claim for?  Joe can file a claim for the unused cruise arrangements. In this case the missed two of his ten days -- the claim will be for 20% of the full cruise fare. He can also file a claim for the additional airfare under (1)(b) above -- the cost of getting him from the point where he left his scheduled trip (Miami) to the place where he can rejoin the cruise.

What about the hotel expense for the two nights in Miami? That's where the Trip Delay coverage comes in. Since he was delayed more than 12 hours (two full days in this example), he can also file a claim for up to $150/day for reasonable accommodations, meals, and transfers during his time in Miami.

Now look at Scenario #2. Again, by the time Fred is healthy enough to rejoin the trip he will have missed out on three days of the tour and will have to buy a ticket to whatever city the tour is now at. 

Since illness is a covered reason for a trip interruption claim Fred will be able to get reimbursed for those three days on a pro-rated basis plus the additional transportation cost to rejoin the tour.

Just as in Joe's case, the policy's trip delay coverage will cover the additional hotel and meal expenses while Fred is unable to travel ($150/day for Global Alert if the delay is 12 hours or more).

A couple of things to note about trip interruption coverages:

#1 More companies are offering a higher limit on interruption coverage than for trip cancellation. For example with CSA, Global Alert, some Travel Guard policies the trip interruption benefit is 150% of the trip cancellation coverage that is purchased. If you buy $1,000 of trip cancellation coverage you get $1,500 of trip interruption coverage. Why is this important? Let's put some numbers to Joe's case. Say his cruise costs him $1000. The two missed days are reimbursable at $200 (20%). The last-minute, one-way air ticket is going to cost him $900. If his maximum benefit is limited to $1000 he's not going to be covered for $100 of his loss. With the 150% benefit there's coverage for all of his losses with a little to spare.

#2 You'll note that there may be no minimum time for the interruption coverage to be in effect like you'll find in trip delay coverages. Joe could have missed his ship by 10 minutes or by 10 hours and his loss would have been the same. But be sure to read the fine print. In Joe's case Global Alert requires that for any losses due to missed connections to be covered there has to have been at least 90 minutes between flights and his flight into Miami would have had to be scheduled to arrive at least four hours prior to the ship's sailing time.

Something to watch for: "Carrier-caused delays."  A carrier-caused delay is something that's the sole fault of the common carrier (airline, bus line, etc.). If your flight is delayed or cancelled because of a mechanical problem that's a carrier-caused delay. The reason that this is important is that you'll usually find that carrier-caused delays are excluded as covered reasons for trip cancellation and interruption claims. One exception is Global Alert that does cover "Air carrier delays resulting from bad weather, mechanical breakdown or organized labor strikes that affect public transportation."