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Christopher Elliott Special to USA TODAY
Published 8:07 AM EDT Aug 16, 2019
If you don't know the difference between travel insurance and trip protection, talk to Christopher Benson. He learned about that the hard way.
When Benson and his wife, Betty, planned a trip to Paris, Orbitz offered them a "vacation waiver" option that looked a lot like travel insurance. But when the Bensons tried to invoke the waiver, it didn't work as they expected. Lufthansa would not refund their tickets from Chicago to Paris.
"I feel I've been duped," says Benson. "They offer a vacation waiver, which does not seem to work."
Technically, the Orbitz vacation waiver isn't insurance. It's an add-on product that allows you to change or cancel your trip for any reason, with Orbitz waiving any cancellation fees and refunding any amounts refunded by the travel provider. It also offers a travel credit, good for a future trip.
Benson's confusion is common. Travelers who want to protect their trip may be considering insurance and tempted to buy a less expensive waiver or trip protection plan. But there are important differences worth knowing.
“Travelers do not understand the difference between travel protection versus travel insurance," says John Lovell, Travel Leaders Group's president for leisure travel, supplier relations and networks. "Many times these terms are used interchangeably from one provider to another."
Benson's request took a tragic turn when his wife passed away, leaving him with vouchers he wouldn't use. I contacted Orbitz on his behalf, and the company negotiated a full refund with Lufthansa.
But Benson is hardly the only traveler surprised by protection. James O’Connor, an attorney with the Nickless, Phillips and O'Connor in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, has filed a lawsuit against river cruise company Vantage Travel for selling a travel protection plan that promised to cover passengers for a mechanical breakdown that causes a complete cessation of services for at least 12 consecutive hours. O'Connor says Vantage did not honor the claims.
"This travel protection appears to be a rip-off,” he says.
Vantage says there was no cessation of services by the 12 consecutive hours. "The vessel was used as a hotel, with meals and all other shipboard activities," says Gary Greenstein, Vantage's chief financial officer. He noted its protection policy also contained a ‘‘cancel for any reason’’ provision that allows passengers to cancel their vacations before their trips.
"We think the plan is a very good one and well worth travelers considering its purchase," he adds.
Travel insurance is an actual insurance product underwritten by large insurance companies and regulated by state insurance agencies. But trip protection plans were much riskier propositions and could be full of exclusions. A trip protection plan might only cover a portion of the trip and not reimburse you for a cancellation but instead issue you a credit for future travel.
https://eu.usatoday.com/story/travel/ad ... 993387001/
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