Travel insurance complications due to the September 11, 2001, attack

By Wayne Wirtanen
This item appears on page 50 of the January 2002 issue.

How did the travel insurance industry respond to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack and how did this affect travel insurance coverages for this period and for subsequent travel?

Shortly after September 11th, a few travel insurance company websites quickly provided detailed answers to policy holders who had questions regarding canceled, delayed or interrupted trips.

Travel Guard International, for example, posted the following text: “Travel Guard. . . will cover travel insurance claims resulting from the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on September 11 for our retail travel insurance policies that include terrorism coverage.

“For travelers who purchased our Cruise, Tour or Travel Guard Select policies prior to September 11, 2001, Travel Guard will cover trip delay claims — based on the terms and conditions of their specific policy — for travelers affected by the terrorist incidents. These customers will be given the option to reschedule or cancel their trip altogether and receive reimbursement from Travel Guard.

“For travelers who purchased our Super Saver economy plan, before September 11, 2001, we will cover trip delay claims based on the terms and conditions of the policy. These travelers will also be given the option to reschedule or cancel their trip altogether and receive reimbursement from Travel Guard, but only if their trip is scheduled to begin prior to October 11, 2001.”

CSA Travel Insurance stated that they had reviewed the policy clause that normally excludes losses caused by “any government regulation or prohibition”: “We have determined that the ‘any government regulation or prohibition’ exclusion does not apply to the FAA actions of September 11th. Our customers whose travel plans were directly affected by the FAA suspension of flights, and subsequent reductions of services during September 11, 2001-September 16, 2001, should contact CSA for assistance.”

CSA and Access America are offering full refunds of travel insurance policy costs for clients whose travel plans were affected by the September 11th incident and who submit a written request and proof of the trip cancellation.

Access America’s website stated, “All travel insurance policies, including those offered by Access America, have exclusions or situations for which benefits are not provided. In many cases these policies exclude losses arising directly or indirectly from terrorism. In other words, benefits are typically NOT payable for losses that result from terrorist incidents. However, the events of the past week have been far from typical.

“As a special accommodation to our customers whose travel plans were directly affected by the terrorist incidents of September 11th, Access America will not apply the terrorism exclusion for this event. This special accommodation will apply to customers who purchased insurance before September 11 for trips departing before October 11, 2001. . .

“As a result of this accommodation, Access America will honor claims for trip delay, vacation delay, travel accident, baggage loss and delay and trip cancellation and interruption that might otherwise not be payable due to the terrorism exclusion.”

A TripGuard representative, in a phone call, stated that their “TripGuard Plus” policy has no coverage for U.S. terrorism. Their “Global Alert” policy does have U.S. terrorism coverage but only if the incident takes place in your departure city. However, I was told that all claims for the period September 11th through September 25th are being considered “on a case by case basis.”

There were significant differences among the various companies regarding payment of claims generated by this incident. Many companies have more than one standard policy and so there may also be differences within those companies.

Travel insurance companies have been reminding customers that many clients were receiving full refunds on air tickets and canceled travel packages. (In case of covered claims, travel insurance policies only pay for unreimbursed losses.)

Claims directly related to the September 11th attack

Not all companies or policies accepted claims resulting from the flight cancellations and/or other financial losses due to the September 11th incident.

The reason for this is that the language of most policies is framed around overseas terrorist acts and then only for problems that have occurred at your destination.

If you submitted a claim for a trip that was directly affected by the New York attack, you have by now found out if your claim was accepted or not.

If your claim was denied, it wouldn’t hurt to ask for a review of your situation. Travel insurance companies generally have an internal claim review procedure. A few of the companies that I contacted stated, “We are reviewing these claims on a case-by-case basis,” but they gave no hint as to what criteria they were using.

For trips that you plan for the near future

The Berkely Group (800/645-2424), which provides a wide variety of policies for the travel industry, stated on their website the following clarification about reimbursement for trip cancellations: “Although we certainly understand that you may now be hesitant to travel and wish to cancel your travel plans outright, if you should choose to cancel solely as a result of this hesitancy, it is unlikely that the insurance coverage under any plan you may have purchased would apply.”

(Author’s note: see the article “Travel Insurance, Travel Safety and State Department Advisories,” June ’01, page 68, or, for a reprint, send $2 to Wayne Wirtanen in care of ITN, 2120 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818.)

In the post-September 11th world of travel, it’s important now not only to make sure that you can get a waiver of the infamous “preexisting medical condition” clause but also look for broad coverage of U.S. terrorism incidents.

Changes in travel insurance coverage

Access America is Providing an “enhancement” called “Free-to-Go” that provides some coverage for incidents in the U.S. This “enhancement” clause is provided only if travel insurance is purchased within 14 days of making a first deposit on a tour or cruise.

Details of the “Free-to-Go” provision are as follows. It pays “reasonable, additional accommodation and traveling expenses up to a maximum of $1,000 if you become stranded for six hours or more as a direct result of a Terrorist Incident in a U.S. city” and up to $1,000 for “reasonable additional travel expenses” if the terrorist incident occurs in your home city and you decide to leavethe trip and return within three days of the incident.

Free-to-Go “coverage is excluded for cities in which a Terrorist Incident has occurred within 30 days prior to purchase of insurance; for cities in which large, multi-day public events attended by more that 50,000 people (e.g., Olympics) are taking place during any portion of your trip, and for Terrorist Incidents involving biological, chemical or nuclear agents.”

This “enhancement” is not a whole lot, but it’s a move in the right direction. Travel insurance is a competitive business. Let’s hope that other companies follow Access America’s lead.

CSA Travel Protection has announced an “indefinite moratorium” on covering financial default by cruise lines, tour operators and other suppliers. Recent reports of defaulting companies include Australia’s Ansett Airlines, Swissair, Midway Airlines, Renaissance Cruises, American Classic Voyages, EuroCruises and Las Vegas’ Aladdin Resort & Casino.

With the travel industry in some disarray, look for more defaults and more travel insurance companies following CSA’s lead with curtailed coverages and/or increased costs. Travel insurance companies that provide default coverage generally cover losses from all travel suppliers. On Nov. 14, 2001, Access America announced that it would provide maximum benefit coverage only for airlines, cruise lines and tour operators included on its list of 84 “covered suppliers.” Travelers are required to purchase trip cancellation and interruption insurance within 14 days of the initial trip payment in order to receive Access America’s maximum default protection. For a full list of the 84 covered suppliers, log on to

To avoid financial losses due to defaults in the near future, make sure that you make all tour/cruise and other travel payments with a credit card that will reimburse you if “goods and services are not provided.”

A travel insurance policy with trip cancellation/interruption coverage generally will pay the costs of your return home in the event that you get stranded somewhere due to a sudden default of your cruise/tour provider. This is another detail to ask about when considering purchase of a travel insurance policy.

— Comparison shop —

Before you buy a tour company or cruise line’s offering of travel insurance, compare the details of coverage with a policy that you can purchase independently. 

A tour brochure or catalog usually does not provide many details of coverages supplied in their “recommended” travel insurance policy. Ask for a complete description before making your first trip deposit so that you will not lose the option of buying an alternative policy with the advantages of purchase “within the 14 days after making a first trip deposit.”

You probably make some comparisons when shopping for most other items or services. Take the time to read through the terms and conditions of travel insurance brochures or “schedule of benefits.” The text may be lengthy, but the language is generally clear and understandable.

Avoid the possibility of the disappointment and aggravation that can occur when a claim is denied. That’s a bum time to find out that the policy you bought did not waive the “preexisting medical condition” clause or that it had age-related restrictions or other unpleasant surprises.

Travel insurance companies

Following are some travel insurance companies’ toll-free phone numbers and website addresses.

Access America: 800/284-8300, or

Travel Guard International: 800/826-4919,

CSA Travel Insurance: 800/348-9505, or

TripGuard: 800/423-3632,

Travel Insured International: 800/243-3174,

GlobalCare Insurance: 800/821-2488,

Travelex: 800/863-9995,

Wallach & Company: 800/237-6615,

Following are other helpful websites.

Chester Perfetto Agency:

Global Cover:

Global Travel Insurance:

Travel Protect:

Specialized travel insurance suppliers

World Travel Center is a broker handling a wide variety of travel insurance policies. If you have a specific need, such as trip-cancellation coverage only, they can provide it. They also offer a “war & terrorism” travel insurance policy. Call 800/786-5566 or visit

Divers Alert Network primarily provides services to scuba divers, but anyone can join and be supplied with emergency medical evacuation service ($100,000 maximum); a year’s coverage is only $29 for an individual and $44 for a family plan. The costs haven’t increased in 18 years! Call 800/446-2671 or visit

Drop me a line

Please drop me a message with your September 11th and beyond travel insurance experience or discovery. It will help me keep ITN readers up to date on the changing travel insurance scene.

Write to me c/o ITN.

Happy (and safe) trails.