With whole islands devastated and countless vacations cancelled or delayed, the travel insurance industry is weighed down by record claims that could cause customer service issues and claim delays.
As of Monday, September 11, Allianz had received more than 3,200 claims, and their customer service center had fielded more than 1,200 calls from customers seeking support following Hurricane Irma. Allianz has also received more than 2,400 claims related to Hurricane Harvey and a handful of claims for Hurricane Jose.
“Hurricane Irma has caused thousands of our customers to cancel their trips to Florida,” said Daniel Durazo, director of communications at Allianz Global Assistance USA. During this time, Durazo said, a number of themes have surfaced that motivated Allianz to better inform the public and travel agents.
"Any traveler filing a claim during this time will likely experience a significant delay getting it processed. To prevent additional lag time, we are urging affected travelers that purchased a policy before the storm being named, to contact their travel insurance company as soon as possible to start the process," says InsureMyTrip claims expert Gail Mangiante.
“We have people who are cross-trained to reallocate people in other departments to handle the increase in calls and claims,” said Isaac Cymrot, vice president of industry relations with Travel Insured International, a Crum & Forster Company, Glastonbury, CT. “Our claim volume is significantly higher than normal because we have had back-to-back storms,” he said, referring to Hurricane Harvey.
Travelers need to save all travel-related receipts and documents. “While claims examiners are aware of the hurricane, documentation is still required and will be requested from travelers submitting claims,” InsureMyTrip said.
In response to increased demand, Allianz Travel Insurance has created a website with important information about how travel insurance can assist travelers during this busy hurricane season.
The page includes important information about travel insurance coverage, instructions on how to file a claim, information about emergency travel assistance and access to its TravelSmart mobile app.
Durazo said, “travelers who are impacted by Irma should contact their travel suppliers before they cancel their trip. Many travel suppliers, including airlines and hotels, are waiving change fees to allow rescheduling without penalty. If our customers are able to change the dates of their trip, they just need to visit our website.”
For those customers who no longer have access to reliable mail delivery, “they should select the debit card payment option when they file a claim. That allows us to send their payment directly to their debit card shortly after their claim is approved,” said Durazo.
InsureMyTrip was offering advice to travel agents and consumers, to assist them in navigating the next few weeks. For example, they recommended that travelers first review their terms and conditions “to understand the claim requirements. A specific form may be required for each benefit within a policy. For example, if a hurricane forced the traveler to cancel a trip, that traveler would then fill out a trip cancellation form — not a trip delay or trip interruption form.”
Other experts said travelers who cannot get to their airport for a trip planned during this time, due to infrastructure obstacles (e.g. bridge closures in Jacksonville and Tampa), will need police reports or other officials to demonstrate that a traveler couldn’t get to their airport, even though their vacation destination was not impacted.