Family out thousands on non-refundable trip after surprise pregnancy

Vacation package company Sunwing declined to reimburse a family for a cancelled trip after they bought non-refundable tickets. (International Business Times)

In a classic case of ‘buyer beware,’ one Calgary family is footing the bill for a trip they won’t be taking.

CTV reports that a family of four booked a trip to Cuba through vacation package and flight company Sunwing, and were looking forward to the trip when they got a surprise:

Leslie Aburto was pregnant.

While there are no restrictions on air travel for expectant mothers until they reach 36 weeks, recent fears about Zika virus in several popular tourism destinations, including Cuba, prompted the Aburtos to cancel their plans. However, they were unable to get a refund for the trip from Sunwing and told CTV that they’ll be out about $6,000 in total.

Sunwing issues refunds for trips to Zika virus-prone regions earlier this year, but the policy stopped at the end of March, the travel company told CTV.

“Since this date, as the potential effects of the virus are widely known, any cancellations due to the risk of Zika are bound by our normal terms and conditions,” Sunwing said in a statement.

It wasn’t all bad news for the Aburto family, however. When a manager at Air Canada heard their story, he decided to offer them free tickets to Los Angeles, Calif., so the family could take their 17-month-old son to Disneyland and still enjoy a vacation.

“It just tugged at my heartstrings and I just thought we would see what we could do to help them,” Mark Dantu, manager at Air Canada, told CTV.

Protecting yourself

While things turned out in the end for the Aburtos, the story highlights the importance of travel insurance.

Will McAleer, President of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada, stresses that trip cancellation insurance is critical if you want to make sure you’re protected against unforseen circumstances.

“It’s protection for the value of the travel arrangements you’ve made, things that are not known,” says McAleer.

While McAleer did not speak to the Aburtos’ case directly, he did note that the Zika virus has been known about for some time now, so cancelling a trip due to last-minute Zika fears may not be covered by some insurance policies.

There are trip cancellation insurance policies that will at least partically cover cancellations for any reason.

“Typically a ‘cancel for any reason’ approach would involve a 50 to 75 per cent refund, so there is still some risk,” McAleer says. “It’s really important to know the type of coverage you’ve got.”

When shopping for trip cancellation insurance, the key thing is to make sure the full dollar value of your trip is covered, so depending on the number of people going and how much the trip costs in total, the more it will cost you for insurance.

It’s also critical to know the health of the party travelling at the time that you book your trip and insurance policy. If someone has been in poor health and/or hospitalized without being stable for a certain about of time, they are less likely to be covered by a standard trip cancellation policy.

Trip cancellation insurance can also cover the cost of the trip if you lose your job between booking the trip and your departure day, or if your home is damaged and you’re required to cancel the trip to take care of it. And it can also cover if any of these circumstances arise while you’re on that trip.

“When we talk about trip cancellation insurance, we’re really talking about trip cancellation and trip interruption,” says McAleer. If someone in your party has a medical emergency and is forced to take a flight home, last-minute tickets can cost a surprising amount, as well as any portion of the trip that was lost due to early cancellation. With the right insurance, travellers have peace of mind for that, too.

“It’s a huge benefit in the plan, and can often represent a larger financial risk than just the value of your trip,” says McAleer.

 

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