As the water slowly subsides in Houston from Harvey and Hurricane Irma threatens the Caribbean this week, travel agents are once again receiving an education on how a named hurricane triggers travel insurance rules.
While most comprehensive travel insurance plans kick in coverage once a storm causes a disruption, the situation is less clear for travelers who are concerned about heading to a destination in advance of a storm, according to InsureMyTrip’s hurricane travel insurance expert, Lynne Peters.
The National Oceania and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) naming a hurricane is the cutoff point for travelers having their trips protected, Peters told TMR.
Once a storm starts forming, it is deemed a “foreseeable event,” and if your client does not have insurance coverage yet, they will not be covered if the storm threatens, interrupts or disrupts their travel plans.
“If your client purchased the insurance before the storm was named, they’re covered. Anyone purchasing today, for a destination in Irma’s path, isn’t,” Peters said.
Generally, however, travel insurance plans only provide coverage for trip cancellation, interruption and delays for bad weather patterns at the time that they disrupt travel plans. A standard comprehensive insurance plan will not provide specific coverage for NOAA warnings.
For example, iTravelInsured allows travelers to cancel a trip within 24 hours of scheduled departure if a destination is under an NOAA hurricane warning, provided the cancellation occurs 14 days or more after the plan’s effective date.
Travel Safe’s Classic and Classic Plus plans allow a client to cancel within 36 hours of departure date if the destination is under an NOAA hurricane warning, provided the cancellation happens 14 days or more from the policy’s effective date. Several other companies offer similar coverage, Peters said.
Trip cancellation coverage typically provides reimbursement of pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs. Many hotels, resorts and tour operators may not provide reimbursement unless the storm prohibits them from providing service, so these types of plans could provide a client with peace of mind if they are traveling during peak hurricane season.
Hurricane season always spurs an increase in travel insurance inquiries and purchases, and travel agents might want to brush up on their knowledge to answer client questions, Peter said.
InsureMyTrip experienced a 10% increase in call volume last week from travelers seeking answers on hurricanes. The most asked questions by customers in the wake of Harvey include evacuation, overall hurricane coverage, trip cancellation and financial default.
Also, agents and travelers are reminded that even if a destination is not considered uninhabitable, a traveler can still cancel if they feel that the state of the destination isn’t amenable to a pleasant vacation.
“A hurricane may not destroy a hotel, but with pouring rain and wind, you might not want to go,” she said.
Hurricane season officially runs June 1 through November 30.