Travel insurance policy frustrates widow

October 22, 2009 7:20:42 PM PDT
Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy. So when a widow from Los Altos got into a hassle with her travel insurance company, she called 7 On Your Side for help.

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Elinor Zias and her husband Art loved to travel. They've traveled to Paris, they've been to Bangkok and they looked forward to going to the Amazon last month.

All that changed in May when Art died of a stroke.

"This thing was such a total shock to me. I've known him since I was 15, so we're married a really long time," said Zias.

In fact, they were married for 51 years. Elinor had purchased travel insurance when she booked her trip with Vantage Travel. The covered reasons for trip cancellation included "hospitalization for three days or more, or death."

She filed a claim to cover her only expense up to that point -- her $1,000 deposit.

Her claim was denied. Vantage sent her a letter saying: "I am sorry, we must respectfully decline your request for a refund. Vantage Travel is assessed cancellation charges which we must pass on to you."

Randy Warren has been a travel agent in Marin County for 23 years, and he's also an attorney.

"With all insurance you have a common rule, it's a bet against the odds. So you only take insurance if you could not afford to cover for loss yourself. When it comes to travel insurance, the insurance coverage is incredibly overpriced for what it is," said Warren.

Elinor paid almost $1,100 for her travel insurance for a trip which cost her $10,000.

"Given that she purchased the insurance and she had a covered reason for not being able to make the trip, Vantage was obligated to refund every dollar of her money," said Warren.

Elinor protested her rejected claim and within a week, Vantage sent her a letter promising to send her travel vouchers.

They said: "These travel certificates are non-transferable and non-refundable, valid for travel within 12 months."

It was non-transferable, yet she received half the vouchers in her late husband's name.

Eleanor told Vantage the vouchers would be of no use to her.

"I just couldn't travel without him. I just wouldn't enjoy traveling alone," said Zias.

She wanted her refund in cash, which is what her policy called for. It read: "Under the pre-departure trip cancellation benefit, you will be reimbursed in cash."

That's when she decided to call 7 On Your Side and we contacted Trip Mate, her travel insurer. Within a week, she received her refund.

"I'm very grateful to 7 On Your Side," she said.

Trip Mate won't discuss Elinor's case with us, but says it treats all its customers consistently and fairly.

Related links:
Sellers of travel program
Travel complaints

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