Passengers who think that they are buying peace of mind when they purchase trip interruption insurance should be forewarned that their claims may be denied, even if the interruptions are beyond their control such as cancelled or delayed flights. Let me share my recent experience with a claim that I filed with CSA Travel Protection.
On September 10, 2012, I was scheduled to fly from Chengdu to Beijing on Air China, Flight CA 4119, scheduled for 6:00 p.m. I was going to Beijing to connect to Air Mongolias Flight OM 228 to Ulaanbaatar scheduled to depart at 1:45 a.m. on September 11. The flight from Chengdu to Beijing is approximately two-and-a-half hours. Thus, I had plenty of time to make my connection. While I was at the airport in Chengdu, my flight was first delayed and then it was cancelled. I was then booked on Air China Flight CA 1408 scheduled to depart at 8:00 p.m. This later flight would still have allowed me to make my connection. However, this flight was delayed approximately one hour and then the plane sat on the runway for about another hour. When I arrived in Beijing to check in, the Air Mongolia counters had closed, and I missed my flight. Unfortunately, my Air Mongolia ticket was non-refundable.
Since none of the Air Mongolia staff was available, I approached the Air China duty manager to see what arrangements I could make so that I could join my tour. The manager was a surly man devoid of sympathy. He arranged a hotel room for me but would not assist me with air travel. Ironically, Air China had a plane going to Ulaanbaatar that morning, but he would not grant me passage on that flight because my connection was with Air Mongolia. The reason I missed my connection, however, was because of the Air China cancellation and the delays at the airport.
That morning, during business hours, a Chinese gentleman at my hotel kindly contacted Air Mongolia on my behalf, explaining my situation. Air Mongolia, however, could not provide me with any assistance since I had purchased a non-refundable ticket. My only option was to purchase a new ticket. I returned to the airport to buy the ticket, but no one from Air Mongolia was available, so I had to prevail on an Air China agent to transact the purchase for me. Thus, on the evening of September 11, I flew to my destination arriving at my hotel approximately at 3:00 a.m. the following morning. Upon my arrival, I was informed that I had to be awake at 5:00 a.m. to join my group because we were scheduled to go to the airport to fly to the Gobi Desert.
Despite the frustrations that I experienced, there was one consolation: I had purchased travel insurance which covered trip interruption. Therefore, I knew that I would at least be reimbursed for the new airline ticket.
When I returned home, I contacted CSA and informed the company of the incident. I was sent a claim form to fill out. I accomplished the form and submitted it with the requested documents. Later, I was asked to provide a credit card statement showing that I had purchased a new ticket, despite the fact that I had already sent them a copy of the new ticket, as well as a document from Air China noting that my original flight had been cancelled.
Some days later, I received a letter from CSA. I assumed it was a reimbursement check. Instead, to my shock, I learned that my claim had been denied. The letter stated "two of your flights with Air China were delayed, causing you to miss your connecting flight with Air Mongolia. We spoke with a representative at Air China who advised us both delays were due to air traffic control....As the reason for your trip interruption was not due to a covered event, no benefits are payable for your claim." Actually, the first flight was originally delayed and then cancelled. I submitted proof of the cancellation to CSA.
The question that needs to be raised is this: Of what value is trip interruption insurance if the interruption resulting from a cancelled flight and delays dictated by Air Traffic Control are not covered? What control does a passenger have over the actions of Air Traffic Control? Further, no reasons have been offered by Air China for the cancellation or delays. Could inclement weather have been a factor or some safety issue?
I could understand a denial of claim if the reason had been negligence on my part, but I had no control over the situation. And to sustain a financial loss over the matter is outrageous.
Since China is a popular destination, passengers should be forewarned of the realities of traveling to this country. And from my experience, flight delays attributable to Air Traffic Control were not uncommon.