Yesterday, a Will Run For Miles reader asked me whether travel insurance would cover the cancellation/interruption of a trip due to cancellation of a marathon, or other comparable event that is the basis for a trip. The reader’s question was general, but motivated by the recent cancellation of the New York City Marathon due to Hurricane Sandy.
I know very little about travel insurance, but as an attorney, I could guess the answer. MAYBE, BUT PROBABLY NOT (I am assuming that the runner is not a professional athlete).
Personally, I didn’t have travel insurance but was able to cancel a number of trips (including a trip to Washington, D.C. for the Marine Corps Marathon) during and/or on account of the Hurricane, and, in each case, even without any travel insurance, the hotels and airlines worked with me. For example: (1) I canceled my flight from JFK-BWI on 10/27 – Delta issued me a credit; (2) I canceled my hotel reservation at the Radisson Reagan Airport – at my request, the hotel waived the 24 hour cancellation policy; (3) my flight from DCA-LGA on 10/28 was cancelled – American Airlines issued a refund; (4) I canceled my rt flight to Singapore on 11/6. This was after the hurricane, but the reason I had to cancel was because I’d just missed a week of work due to the power outages at my office and I could no longer take the vacation – at my request, Delta issued a credit; and (5) I canceled my hotel reservation at Grand Hyatt Singapore without penalty.
Thus, in my case, although my travel plans were clearly affected by Hurricane Sandy, I did not suffer any out-of-pocket loss, other than the cost of the two marathons. If I had purchased travel insurance, I would not have benefited in any respect.
As for those with travel insurance, if there was coverage for based on cancellation of the Marathon, it would be because a given category of coverage under the policy was called into play, and not “merely” because a marathon was canceled ….. UNLESS …. the policy included cancellation “for any reason” provision.
In the case of Hurricane Sandy, the issue would be whether the policy covered hurricanes, and the like, and if so, what were the terms. A quick review of some policies, shows that, even when theoretically covered, the conditions for coverage can be rather stringent. Thus, one policy says:
Mandatory Evacuation conditionally covered
Complete cessation of common carrier for 24 hours
Accommodation at destination made uninhabitable
Must be purchased before storm is named
A cursory look at posts regarding the usefulness of travel insurance reveals, not surprisingly, that some feel it is a waste while others feel it is essential.
About a year ago, Scott McCartney, in his Middle Seat column in the Wall Street Journal, entitled Coverage for When the Vacation is Scrubbed examined the benefits and pitfalls of travel insurance. Most generally, the author felt that in the typical scenario, travel insurance may not be useful, unless one pays the extra dollars for a “cancel for any reason” provision. Mr. McCartney stated:
Travel policies come in handy for unexpected illnesses and typical air-travel weather fiascoes, but they are usually filled with exclusions that often negate coverage for many cancellations. Most policies exclude coverage if a trip is canceled because of a pregnancy, pre-existing medical issues or an injury from playing organized sports, scuba diving or skydiving. If a hurricane damages your hotel but doesn’t render it “uninhabitable,” the policy may not reimburse you if you cancel. Terrorism protections may only cover you if an attack happened in your destination city within 30 days of your trip. And there’s typically no coverage in standard policies for cancellations because of war, nuclear disasters, epidemics or civil unrest.
(See also, Gary Leff’s discussion of this article in the View From the Wing blogpost entitled: When is Travel Insurance a Good Idea?).
On the other hand, Martin Cowling, author of Wild About Travel, wrote a blog post entitled Travel Tip #6: Take Travel Insurance, where he recommended that travelers obtain travel insurance. However, the author seemed to be referring more to the constant traveler, and advocated the benefits of an annual policy, rather than single vacation policies. What I found most interesting were the links in this post to travel insurance brokers in various countries. I linked to Squaremouth, a search engine website that will give you quotes from various insurance companies in the United States all at once (similar to the way CarRental.Com will give you a composite view of rates of car rentals by various companies at a given place on a given day). I found this interesting, and had fun playing around with the variables.
We are back to square one with the question. Would travel insurance cover cancellation of a marathon? Answer: I don’t know, but I doubt it. Look to your own preexisting health and home policies, as well as any trip coverage afforded by your credit cards (hmmmm, did you use that Amex or Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa in the back of your wallet to purchase the tickets?). I have found, time and again, that, despite “non-refundable language,” companies have human employees and are often willing to work with you and try to help you get a refund or credit. So, it never hurts to ask, and it always pays to be nice. Are you traveling to a region with unrest or known for disease? (maybe, in that case, travel insurance might prove beneficial). As for random cancellations of marathons not related to emergency weather, I suggest one examines the potential liability of the marathon itself and an analysis of the language in the waiver one might have signed. There is also the potential refund or credit of part or all of the marathon fee. Honestly, I might be able to understand the retention of the fee when the price of the marathon is $60, but when the price is $250 to $300….. well, you finish the sentence.
In any event, why cancel the trip? If the weather is fine, one can always go anyway, and enjoy the sights, even without the marathon.
UPDATE: ACCORDING TO A READER OF THIS BLOG:
Active.com offers event insurance through Allianz (who also offers travel insurance to airline passengers). For $7, you’re covered for illness, injury, and “other” situations that are not specified. Event cancellation was not mentioned specifically.