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Travel insurance firm balks at covering lost frequent flier miles

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By Christopher Elliott
Published:
Q: My wife used her Delta frequent flier miles for a trip to Manchester, England, to visit her mother. She bought trip insurance through Allianz. Two days before she was supposed to return, she called me to let me know she had been taken to the hospital with severe stomach pain.
She was diagnosed with a virus and given medication, but had to return to the hospital. I had to change her return date twice before she could make the flight home. Delta charged $253 and 20,000 miles to make the change.
My wife was diagnosed with a ruptured appendix and hospitalized immediately when she returned. Because of the amount of infection, removing the appendix was impossible and so she was put on antibiotics.
We made a claim with Allianz for the cost of changing her flight, but Allianz would only cover the $253. We've asked Delta to consider the circumstances that made this date change necessary and reimburse our frequent flier account with the 20,000 miles, but it won't. Can you help?
Charles Stewart, Dallas
A: I'm sorry to hear about your wife's medical condition. It's a good thing you had travel insurance, and Allianz was correct to cover your change fee.
I think you might have avoided some of these problems by calling Allianz sooner. Many insurance companies also offer 24-hour emergency medical assistance services, and can help you find a hospital that can diagnose and treat your problem.
Allianz could have also advised you about your next steps and assisted your wife in getting home. (For example, even the basic Allianz policy covers you for up to $50,000 of an emergency medical transportation.)
A case like this underscores the need for reliable insurance while you're traveling, if not through a travel insurance company, then through some other type of medical coverage. For example, a company like International SOS offers medical assistance, international health care and security services and could have given your wife a quick diagnosis and delivered her to a hospital with American standards.
Delta's policy on redepositing miles is clear. According to the airline, Delta SkyMiles members who want to cancel or make changes to their wholly unused award ticket need to do so at least 72 hours before their original flight departure time to be eligible to redeposit unused award ticket miles or to reissue an award ticket.
I've seen Allianz cover miles on past claims, but before I approached the company, I decided to ask Delta to take another look at your wife's case. It reviewed her request and decided to return the 20,000 miles as an exception.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of "Scammed." Read more travel tips on his blog, www.elliott.org or email him at celliott@ngs.org.
© 2012 Christopher Elliott/ Tribune Media Services, Inc.
Story tags » Travel

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