Helpful Flying Information re: Expedia, Fiji Airways and AIG Travel “Insurance”

At least one of you, maybe two (certainly not AIG – yet) have emailed me one of those surveys marketing sends out that you aggregate into scorecards and use to decide budgets, bonuses and promotions etc. I apologize but have not responded yet.

Consider this to be my response. Consider it also to be my non-response to your email.

Full Disclosure: The critical business of the airline industry is to move people and things to far away places of their choice, very quickly and very safely. Given the physics, economics and regulation involved, I remain in awe at how well you do this. And it just seems to get better YoY.

Well done. And thanks. Nothing I write below should detract from this accomplishment.

What I often have trouble understanding is why, given my love of travel, and arriving at places of my choice quickly and safely, I often leave the airport angry.

This time, it’s hard to know who to be angry at, exactly. You seem to be working together.

But I do know why.

A bit of background: I’m in year one of retirement. Over the course of a business career, I flew several business flights and several family flights each year. While I’m no 1,000,000 mile salesperson, I am not an especially sophisticated bargain hunter (as we shall see) and often flew business on the corporate dime. I collect miles but have never redeemed them. I’m guessing I’ve been a decent customer, profit-wise.

Over several hundreds of flights over decades, I’ve cancelled or changed perhaps five. Certainly fewer than airlines have changed against my will often causing me to miss my connection or selected and paid for seats. Hold this thought please.

I have a bad back. Recently, I booked a trip to Fiji for two people and I choose business class, despite the fare being 5X the price. But I knew the deal. Sit in agony and humiliation for 10 hours or pay up. So I did. And I naively assumed that anyone paying the price of a decent used car for 2 airline seats might be treated with fairness and some graciousness. But taking no chances, I bought Travel Guard ™ Trip Protection Insurance from AIG, through Expedia, for the price of about half a coach ticket. Each.

As things turned out, it became important for personal reasons to return one day sooner than we had booked. I made this change about 10 days before we left.

I called Expedia, and they cheerfully and empathetically explained that they could help change the flights, but that typically airlines would charge between $100 and $300 per ticket for the change. I had noticed that my flights had gone down in price by about $800 / ticket, so I hoped maybe the reduction might cover this.

I bet you can see where this is going.

It did not cover this.

Expedia customer service transferred me to Fiji Airlines, where they explained that the change fee would be nearly as much as the cost of a new ticket at the new lower rates, or 10X to 30X the fee Expedia described. I sensibly declined this madness but was told by both Expedia and Fiji that I had cancellation insurance and could file a claim.

Technically, this was true.

I filed a claim.

Expedia’s marketing department sent me an email telling me that the price of this trip had dropped even further. I was confused as to how this was helpful.

The claim was denied.

I’ll not list AIG’s response except to quote this: Please refer to the policy wording, which states in pertinent part:, followed by a list of exact reasons why a claim may be paid. My reason wasn’t on the list.

In retrospect, it seems obvious given the effort airlines go to advertise low prices, while charging higher prices, and to charge higher prices for exactly the same thing to different people based on their sophistication, ability and willingness to pay and good or bad fortune, that the insurance industry couldn’t be the backstop for this. People would game the airlines, who are gaming them, using insurance by doing things like cancelling higher priced tickets for today’s prices.

We couldn’t have that.

I guess.

In retrospect, I feel a bit naïve for even assuming my claim would be filled. In my defense, this was confusing:

https://buy.travelguard.com/tgi2/policytools/viewpolicy.aspx?policy=937439457&ln=ZINTEL&br=expedia

TRIP CANCELLATION 100% Trip Cost Per Insured

TRIP INTERRUPTION 100% Trip Cost Per Insured

The key here, if you are paying close attention, is that something outside of your control has to cancel or interrupt the trip. This is helpfully more clear in the documentation of the refused claim than the documentation during the sale.

I’m sure Expedia didn’t know this when selling me the “insurance”, nor did they or Fiji Airlines when referring me to AIG during the change process. Or pricing the change.

Anyway, it all might work out. Here’s where things stand now:

From: TG STP Claims Doc 1 <claimsdoc1@aig.com>
Date: Tuesday, March 10, 2020 at 11:33 AM
To: Mike Zintel
Subject: Automatic reply: AIG Travel Travel Insurance Case XXXXXXXXXXX

Please do not respond to this email. Thank you for your correspondence. An analyst will review your documentation and contact you if further information is required to process your claim.

Ok, I won’t respond to the email.

Mike.

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