Frequent flier miles coverage varies

  • By Christopher Elliott
  • Wednesday, June 18, 2014 1:02pm
  • Life

Q: Last year, while I was visiting Australia, my wife had a medical emergency that caused us to cancel our trip and come home. Fortunately, we had bought a travel insurance policy through Allianz.

I called the insurance company from our hotel in Sydney and asked for assistance in getting us home in a timely fashion. The person who handled our case was most helpful, booking us a flight for the next day to San Francisco on United Airlines.

The Allianz representative used 320,000 of our frequent flier miles to get us back home. This is on top of the 255,000 miles we already had used to get to Australia. Allianz has refused to compensate us for the miles. Had I known that I could not claim frequent flier miles under this policy, I would have paid cash, been reimbursed and be 320,000 miles better off than I am today.

Can you help? — James Wright, Corte Madera, Calif.

A: Some travel insurance policies don’t cover flights booked with frequent flier miles, and that makes sense, at least on one level. After all, what’s a mile worth? You might have one number, the airline might come up with a different one, and, well, you probably already know what I’m going to say next; loyalty programs are practically worthless — but that’s another story, and I’m not going down that rabbit hole today.

The disclosure should have happened when you purchased your policy, which means that the Allianz representative or agent you talked with should have mentioned that your mileage flights wouldn’t be covered. And certainly, the representative you called after your wife’s medical emergency should have clued you in to the fact that once you cashed in those 320,000 miles to fly back home, they were gone.

It’s highly unusual for any insurance company, let alone Allianz, to drag its feet on a claim request like this one. But again, the reasons are understandable. In your claim, you valued your 320,000 miles at $35 per 1,000 miles, plus 7.5 percent tax, which comes to $12,040. That’s no small sum.

If you find that an insurance company is stalling, you can always send a polite appeal to someone higher up the food chain. I list all the names and numbers on my consumer- advocacy website: http://elliott.org/contacts/allianz/.

I contacted Allianz on your behalf to see whether there had been a misunderstanding about your policy. Turns out, there hadn’t been. The policy you purchased didn’t explicitly cover tickets booked with frequent flier miles.

You didn’t like that answer (and neither did I), so you decided to appeal to your state’s insurance commissioner. After several months, Allianz cut you a check for $11,257 — the amount it calculated you would pay to replace the miles.

“We believe there was a miscommunication over whether he should use points or pay for his ticket home,” an Allianz representative told me. “We apologize for that miscommunication.”

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler.” Email him at celliott@ngs.org

(c) 2014 Christopher Elliott. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

More in Life

Leanne Smiciklas, the friendly lady who served customers of her husband’s Old School Barbeque from a schoolbus parked in front of the Reptile Zoo east of Monroe, has died at 64. (Dan Bates / Herald file)
Without her, beloved BBQ hotspot in Monroe can’t go on

Leanne Smiciklas, who ran the now-closed Old School BBQ along Highway 2 with her husband, died.

Taylor Johnston waters a philodendron at her home on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Three guidebooks to help the novice houseplant gardener

Indoor plants are popular again — and we’re not talking about your grandma’s African violets.

Plant of Merit: Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata,’ Japanese aralia

What: Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata,’ or variegated Japanese aralia, is an evergreen shrub… Continue reading

Don’t call Justice Brewing owner a gypsy — he’s just ‘homeless’

After an unexpected hardship, owner Nate McLaughlin won’t be moving his brewery to downtown Everett.

A mild December makes for easy winter cleanup in the garden

If you haven’t finished your November gardening tasks, here’s a list of chores to do this month.

Beer of the Week: Justice Brewing’s Outlook F——d, Northeast IPA

The brewery’s new beer with a vulgar name is a tropical IPA that riffs off its Outlook Hazy recipe.

Yummy Banh Mi offers cheap sandwiches with rich flavor

Classic Vietnamese meets fast food at new restaurant in downtown Everett.

Could a law to bring down the mob be used in Weinstein case?

The federal anti-racketeering law was drafted to bring down organized crime but it isn’t limited to it.

This author is throwing a virtual party for book lovers

Jennifer Bardsley is hosting a Facebook get-together for young-adult book authors and readers.

Most Read