What is baggage-delay coverage? — Another look at travel insurance

By Wayne Wirtanen
This item appears on page 31 of the August 1996 issue.

Elaine Chew of Sacramento, CA, found out about baggage-delay cov­erage in an annoying, frustrating way.

In October 1995 she transferred from a San Francisco/London flight to a connecting flight on to Frankfurt; unfortunately, her luggage did not make the connec­tion.

She joined her tour group with­out the luggage and spent a good bit of her first three days on the phone to British Midlands Air­lines trying to locate the missing bags.

After three days her luggage caught up to her, but those three days of her tour were unpleasant arid inconvenient without her per­sonal necessities and changes of clothing.

Never assume

As soon as she got home, Ms. Chew started to request some com­pensation for this baggage-delay problem.

To make a long story short, through April of 1996 she ended up with a stack of international correspondence between the air­line, the airline’s insurance com­pany, the airline’s attorneys and the travel insurance company, not to mention the calls she made to the travel agent who had sold the travel insurance policy — all this with no reimbursement or any sat­isfactory explanation as to why she she could not get compensation..

Ms. Chew had received only a one-page summary of her travel in­surance policy coverages. Under the Benefits column was listed Baggage Delay and under the Limits column was listed $200 ($100/day).

Ms. Chew made the not-illogical assumption that she was due $200 for the inconvenience caused by the baggage delay.

Unfortunately, this is not what the insurance policy says, and un­fortunately Ms. Chew never got a copy of the policy, and unfortu­nately Ms. Chew was not advised by her travel agent or by the travel insurance company that, in fact, she had no claim.

Read the fine print

Insurance policies vary, but basi­cally the fine print says something like this: “Baggage Delay (Air Only) — You will be reimbursed for ex­penses of necessary effects, up to $200, if your checked baggage is

delayed or misdirected by an Air Common Carrier for more than 24 hours from the time you arrive at the destination (other than your residence) stated on the ticket.”

Ms. Chew had the problem of not having adequate time (or access), or proper advice from a tour guide, to purchase temporary items. Without receipts or documentation, she had no claim to present for re­imbursement.

Reimbursement authorization

Don’t leave home without a copy of your travel insurance policy. You never know what part of the policy you might need to use. There is fine print, but it is generally fairly clear.

If you have a baggage delay, get something written from the airline immediately to document the de­lay and then also document the late arrival date. This will elimi­nate the hassle of later long-dis­tance correspondence.

Ask the airline if they will pro­vide some immediate compensation for purchases, and ask where and how you can purchase emergency 

items. Save all receipts.

On one of our South American trips, our baggage went to Argen­tina when we went to Ecuador. We got the airline’s authorization for $50 each for purchases.

We had to get to a local store and return with receipts; our en­terprising guide made this possible in the short time that was avail­able. (We finally met up with our luggage on the flight home.)>

Meet the requirements

If you feel that you will be filing a claim (of any sort), immediately review the details of the policy and try to meet the complete set of re­quirements as specified.

Check with your tour guide or the travel insurance company if you are unsure how to proceed. Your policy will have an emergency number that you can call (collect) from anywhere.

If the problem is a serious one, and you’re still unsure about what to do, call your travel agent from wherever you are. This will be the best test of that agency’s customer service performance.

The airlines are actually pretty good about getting you and your baggage to the same destination at the same time.

Transfers between airlines and unscheduled transfers because of weather delays or other problems are the most prone to baggage mis­haps.

Make sure that you pay atten­tion to procedures for bags checked through international borders.

Be prepared

On a recent trip, we were told clearly (but incorrectly) at an in­ternational baggage check-in that our bags would automatically go through to our destination.

Much to our surprise, we just happened to see them, halfway through our set of flights, on a car­ousel. It seems that they had to be carried through a Customs check that we were not told about.

We could easily have been at our final destination without the bags, because of the faulty information.

Last, but not least, have some minimum clothing and other ne­cessities in a carryon bag. If you travel frequently enough, you will experience a baggage delay.

Happy trails.