Flight cancellations and delays are the bane of the frequent traveller’s existence.
They can destroy the best-laid travel plans and, in some cases, leave travellers out of pocket to the tune of thousands of dollars.
When Mount Agung erupted in Bali last year, one traveller had to lodge a whopping insurance claim of $4,088 which included accommodation, food and flights that resulted from their cancelled flight.
Another claimed $3,283 when their flights to Japan were cancelled this year because of Typhoon Jebi.
In light of Sydney’s wild weather completely throwing the airport into disarray two weeks in a row, we thought we’d have a chat with Southern Cross Travel Insurance‘s (SCTI) Chief Executive Officer, Chris White to get the low-down on what passengers can do insurance-wise when faced with the dreaded red screen.
Travel Weekly: Most important question first: What does it mean to Southern Cross Travel Insurance to be shortlisted for an Australian Travel Award?
Chris White: We’re delighted to have been shortlisted for this award.
After nearly ten years of operation in Australia, we remain committed to helping the tens of thousands of travellers we cover each year focus on enjoying the wonders of travel.
TW: What rights does a passenger have when their flight is cancelled or they are bumped? What can they expect of their airline?
CW: If there’s an issue with your flight, your airline is your first port of call and they will generally do their best to help you.
According to consumer advocacy group Choice, overbooking is legal in Australia but airlines have a legal obligation to get you from A to B.
Choice says airlines might not necessarily compensate you if you miss another flight or important event.
Other than trying to put you on the next possible flight, airlines might provide compensation, such as accommodation, free meals or flight credit.
Some travellers may be aware they have rights for costs caused by flight delays or cancellations under an international agreement called the Montreal Convention.
The most popular destinations for Australian customers of Southern Cross Travel Insurance — New Zealand, Indonesia, USA, Japan, Thailand, UK, Singapore and countries of the EU — are signatories.
Under the Montreal Convention, an airline may not have to pay compensation if it is able to prove it took all possible measures to avoid the damage or that it was impossible for it to take such measures.
TW: Who should they contact first in these instances?
CW: If a flight is cancelled or overbooked, we recommend travellers speak to their airline as soon as possible to see what alternative travel they can offer.
If the cancellation is due to an unforeseen event, the right travel insurance might help cover the extra costs.
Our advice is to get a written confirmation from the airline confirming the cancellation and what you’ve been offered, and hold onto receipts for things like food, accommodation, transport, toiletries or clothing, so you can substantiate costs for any claim you make.
TW: What role can a travel agent play in this instance?
CW: If you booked travel through a travel agent and are feeling stuck, they may be able to help make alternative arrangements.
TW: What is required to support a claim and initiate contact with your insurer?
CW: If you need to make an insurance claim with us, we would need a document from your airline that confirms the flight cancellation or overbooking in writing.
The information we require to pay a claim is:
- Confirmation by the airline saying the flight was cancelled or overbooked
- A reason as to why the flight was cancelled or overbooked
- What alternative options and compensation was offered to the customer by the airline
- Proof of purchase, if an alternative flight was bought
TW: Anything I’ve missed you would like to add on this topic?
CW: If your flight is overbooked or cancelled due to an unexpected event, your airline will usually offer alternative travel options.
In the rare case that alternative options aren’t suitable, this is where travel insurance may come to the rescue.
We suggest customers first try to get a full refund from the airline and book another flight.
If you are unable to recover the costs from the airline, then as long as the journey is to the same destination and is a similar cost or seat class, Southern Cross Travel Insurance may cover costs you incur or have already paid.