Though the return to travel continues to ramp up for planners and other business travelers, all is not back to normal, at least not yet. In the latest setback, Southwest Airlines has been canceling and delaying domestic flights in droves for nearly a week. Since Oct. 9, the airline has canceled almost 2,000 flights and hundreds more were delayed, blaming a mixture of unsafe and unpredictable weather changes as well as air traffic control issues.
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“Las Vegas travel was heavily impacted by Southwest Airlines travel disruptions, so although LAS [McCarran International Airport] is more of a leisure than a business destination, the ripple effect of cancellations on Southwest has affected many business travelers over the past five days,” said Brian Tanis, vice president of product development and marketing at International Travel Solutions (ITS), a software company that provides operations support and emergency services for major airlines and FEMA disaster response and relief.
Planners, like all air travelers, are no strangers to flight delays, but in case your airline skills are rusty, Events Industry Council, for one, recommends leaving at least two hours’ time between flights or other connections to give yourself plenty of spare time for your initial flight to depart or land late.
But what can the business traveler do to protect against the inevitable added expenses of travel cancellations or extended delays—meals you weren’t expecting to buy, nights you weren’t expecting to spend in a hotel, a missed connection due to a flight delay? Travel insurance may be the answer.
InsureMyTrip, which calls itself “the nation’s first and largest unbiased travel insurance comparison website,” offers tips on what to look for when choosing an insurance plan and insights on how you can expect your insurance provider to respond to certain situations.
Some unexpected expenses may be covered by your travel delay benefits. These will typically cover delays that last between five and 24 hours. The insurance provider will reimburse the traveler for “reasonable meals and accommodations” over the course of the delay.
Unplanned changes to your travel itinerary may entitle you to trip interruption benefits. This coverage reimburses the traveler for “pre-paid, nonrefundable expenses” and protects against the costs of extending or shortening your trip; however, be sure to take careful note of exclusions from reimbursement in the policy for things such as trip interruptions due to a preexisting medical condition or a work-related reason.
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Travel insurance covers more than flights. With missed connection, or “meet your cruise” coverage, your insurance provider may reimburse you for the cost of missing your cruise departure after a delayed flight and even assistance in reaching the cruise at its next port of call. Still, the fine print can be tricky. This type of coverage typically only allows for delays of three hours or longer. Your provider will also determine whether you allotted yourself enough time between your flight arrival and cruise departure.
In the words of Meghan Kayata, media contact with InsureMyTrip: “Passengers with departing flights at busier airports or travelers concerned about protecting any trip expenses should consider travel insurance with robust travel delay benefits.”
As winter weather adds even more unpredictability to business travel, consider adding travel insurance to your trip to-do list. Then take a moment to review your plan before stepping onto the jetway. The right coverage could give peace of mind and save you a lot of money.