Advice for smart guest who wants to purchase trip insurance to cover smoke/air quality?

in
Santa Cruz, CA
Level 2
243 Views

Greetings. We use the strict cancellation policy because... reasons. A guest loves the idea of purchasing trip insurance in case Tahoe gets smoke-filled skies in August. It's a definite risk. Do any of you know of any insurers that have honored (or at least would honor) a claim for canceling or suspending a trip due to air quality problems? If so, which insurer(s), and can you share any knowledge about criteria to cancel, documentation required to prevail in a claim, etc?

 

We have the same question for any future, possible pandemic lockdown that causes cancellations. Does anyone have actual experience with a guest being reimbursed?

 

Thanks!

7 Replies

Re: Advice for smart guest who wants to purchase trip insurance to cover smoke/air quality?

in
Mount Barker, Australia
Level 10

@Gary890 

Gary, I cannot speak for the the US but in Australia we have an insurance company called AIG who do specialise in all types of pollution insurance, air pollution being just a part of it!.......

 

https://www.aig.com.au/content/dam/aig/apac/australia/documents/brochure/pll-product-profile-jan2019...

 

If it's available here, I am sure it would be an insurable option in the USA. I would check with you local insurance council, I am sure they could best advise you.

 

Having said that, I would consider any guest who considered possible future air quality as a reason for cancellation an unacceptable guest to accept in the first place! We all take risks when we travel.

 

To the second part of your question, we in Australia have had a great record at handling Covid-19, as an entire country we haven't had a covid related death in more than 9 months. But, that doesn't mean we are not having a battle with this pandemic. By allowing 6,000 Australian travelers a week back into the country many of them are bringing the virus back with them which is posing a challenge for our quarantine system. The instant a covid case gets out into the community that community goes into lock- down! There are currently more than 1/3 of Australias total population that are under pandemic restrictions.....bookings get made and bookings get cancelled....that is our way of life.

I have a flexible cancellation policy, I never wanted to get paid for something I didn't provide. I have had guests cancel within 2 hours of check-in, and I have refunded them. These conditions are not going to last forever and I think we have to realise we are not in God's ideal world at the moment.

 

Gary, I think we need to be a bit flexible! 

 

Cheers.........Rob

 

Re: Advice for smart guest who wants to purchase trip insurance to cover smoke/air quality?

in
Sayulita, Mexico
Level 10

@Robin4  They are letting 6000 Aussies a week back in without quarantine or testing? I am just going through this now having flown back to Canada 2 days ago. I had to get a PCR test in Mexico 2 days before my flight and present the negative test results before being allowed to board. Then I had to get another PCR test at the airport here in Canada before proceeding via shuttle bus to the quarantine hotel, which you must show you have booked for 3 days in order to enter Canada. You have to remain at the hotel, where you aren't allowed to leave the room or the outdoor area provided, fully masked if outside your room, until you are informed of the negative result, at which point you can proceed to where you will finish the rest of the 14 day quarantine (meals are left outside your hotel room door and no hotel housekeeping is done during the stay).

 

In my case, I will have a 2 hr flight to my daughter's tomorrow, where they have set up a big tent for me to stay in, as they have a small house. I will be using their bathroom, as that can't be avoided. We will eat outside at the picnic table. (She and her guy have gotten their first vax, so she's not that concerned) On day 8 of the quarantine period, I have to do a self-swab test with the kit they gave me at the airport here, send it in, then if that also is negative, I'm out of quarantine jail on day 14. 

It's all quite the ordeal, and much of it is overkill, but Canada is really not screwing around with this.

 

Are they letting Aussies back in without testing and just letting them proceed to wherever they live on the honor system that they will quarantine? How are they managing to bring so many virus cases back into the country? It's not like Australia shares a land border with other countries that  people can sneak across.

Re: Advice for smart guest who wants to purchase trip insurance to cover smoke/air quality?

in
Mount Barker, Australia
Level 10

@Sarah977 

 

No Sarah, nobody is allowed into Australia without going into mandatory quarantine in a government approved quarantine facility. 

 

When Australia closed its international borders there were over 200,000 Australians offshore. Obviously almost all of them wanted to get home and the country has been taking them back at the rate of 6,000 per week. There are still 45,000 Australians stranded abroad.

 

The 6,000 cap has been put in place because we do not have the capacity to effectively quarantine any more than 12,000 persons at a time.

 

Some are being quarantined in purpose built isolation centres such as Howard Springs outside of Darwin in the NT.

But where our problem is coming from Sarah, many of these returned travelers are being quarantined in hotels that have been taken over by the government for the purpose. All these hotels are in the major cities and require staffing and servicing, and no matter how well policed they are, every now and then someone will become infected from one of these facilities and bring that infection out into the community where it has to be traced and stopped.

There is essentially no local covid in Australia, 6 of the 8 states are recording no new cases in the community day after day. NSW and Qld are our only two states recording community cases and in both instances these cases have been traced back to returning travelers. 

 

It's difficult enough just getting from one state to another here in Australia let alone get into Australia from overseas. We are a virtual Covid fortress!

 

Cheers........Rob 

Re: Advice for smart guest who wants to purchase trip insurance to cover smoke/air quality?

in
Sayulita, Mexico
Level 10

@Robin4  Thanks for explaining. But I still don't see how quarantine hotel staff could get infected from incoming travelers. It's the same here- there were 5 quarantine hotels I had a choice of to book. No staff comes in contact with any of us quarantining. Meals are left outside the door, I put any garbage outside my door. Staff wear masks and gloves. And no incoming travelers can leave the hotel until they get the negative test back a day or two after flying in. If you get a positive result, you can't leave until another 14 days is over and you test negative. And hotel staff still doesn't come in contact with the hotel guests.

Re: Advice for smart guest who wants to purchase trip insurance to cover smoke/air quality?

in
Mount Barker, Australia
Level 10

@Sarah977 

Yeah the same measures are in place here Sarah  and it doesn't matter how much they try to isolate quarantined persons from the general public,  with more than 120,000 people going through quarantine there have been maybe a dozen that have escaped into the community over the past 9 months.......it is not working 100%. Hotels and quarantine are not a good combo. Sometimes it's the aircon/filtration, sometimes it's the dumpster that leftover scraps escaped from a tear in the rubbish bag. This new Delta variant of Covid is so infectious and easily transmissible, it keeps on searching for ways to replicate itself.

The protocols that were put in place for dealing with this pandemic just 3 months ago are proving to be less effective against this Delta variant.

 

The only way of really dealing with this situation effectively is purpose built facilities sited well away from major population centres and taking quarantine control out of the cities.

And that is what is happening now. The federal government is funding and fast-tracking the establishment of two containment facilities and the state government of Queensland is going it alone and constructing a facility that will be ready for use in 2 months.

 

We are learning all the time Sarah, we are not perfect at controlling this but, we are at least as good as anyone else!

 

Cheers........Rob

Re: Advice for smart guest who wants to purchase trip insurance to cover smoke/air quality?

in
Berlin, Germany
Level 10

@Gary890  The likeliest problem I can see here is that air-quality issues come in several gradations, only the most severe of which gets classified as a natural disaster. Poor air quality during a summer drought period is not an unexpected event, so I wouldn't expect it to be insurable under a standard policy.

 

What your guests can do is choose a premium plan with a CFAR (Cancel for any reason) benefit, which costs a lot extra but it leaves the customer at liberty to determine whether the conditions are acceptable to their personal needs. This is the only type of policy I could recommend for this particular situation. But as much as I appreciate the guests' thoughtfulness about insurance, I also have to wonder if Tahoe in August - in one of the hottest and driest years on record, in which catastrophic fires throughout the region are a dead certainty - is really a "smart" plan for their vacation.

 

You might be able to buy insurance for skydiving without a parachute, but that doesn't make it a good idea.

Re: Advice for smart guest who wants to purchase trip insurance to cover smoke/air quality?

in
Santa Cruz, CA
Level 2

Thank you, Andrew (and earlier: Rob).

My question was really for "all future guests" and not just this one; but it turns out this guest is an attorney who specializes in insurance cases and has "enjoyed" looking into this. He reports that... you cannot view the full policy online before buying that he can easily see (though he didn't put a lot of time into it). And that an insurer can easily escape having to pay for a remarkable range of reasons that make it completely uncertain in advance how they'd handle a claim.

This is not a shock to anyone who has enjoyed filing claims with any insurance company ever--but some of these reasons were not obvious to me, for example:

1) The fire's origin makes no difference to its impact on trees or squirrels or travelers (or hosts!) but If there's an evacuation order from local authorities due to fire danger, an insurer may not cover it depending how the fire started. Arson? They seem to have the right to exclude it. Negligence? Same,  can exclude it. Lightning strike? Ah that's a natural cause, it's not explicitly excluded. Terrorism? It's explicitly included!

2) I phoned my credit card company (Chase) to learn about what their "built-in" travel insurance covers.  It explicitly excludes cancellation/interruption due to a pre-existing condition.

Taking that at face value--I am not a lawyer but you cannot practically ask the insurer this level of detail interactively and get an authoritative reply that can be relied on in advance--consider a fire 300 miles away that raises air pollution to a level where someone in the traveling party is having discomfort or difficulty breathing. If they need to drive away from smoke, is the interruption to their vacation a covered loss?

It may be more likely to be covered if the traveler didn't previously suffer from asthma or respiratory distress! I.e. you need people in your party to suffer new-to-them ailments to increase your chances of receiving the protection any reasonable person would assume was included. 

I can see how one ends up with these patchwork, cynical rules of coverage. But practically speaking, I cannot do this sort of probability math well enough to recommend travel insurance for anything other than "traditional" reasons like... lost luggage, transportation obstacles (canceled flights, closed roads), or warnings of severe or "named storms" or someone becoming ill for a covered reason and circumstance.

For illness, if a member of the traveling party falls ill, including the need to quarantine or recover from covid-19, I was informed that that is generally covered. Also covered would be if an immediate family member required care by the insured whether or not the affected family member was a covered traveler.

Covid lockdowns by "authorities" are not covered by my credit card company's travel policy (not sure about AIG travel policy).

So what I'm taking away, hah, other than wariness and that the insurance racket is... a racket: I'll probably always recommend buying basic travel coverage and/or making sure to purchase with a credit card that offers "built-in" travel coverage on purchases with the card. I'm not sure a CFAR is worth the extra cost if if the total cost is 10% of the covered amount because it's unclear whether they'd really pay out (and obviously depends on local risks).

Anyone with any relevant knowledge or experience, by all means please do correct or augment what is written here. Would love a happier answer.

Thanks again,

-Gary

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