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Terrorist Attack in Paris Raises Questions About Travel Insurance

Aviation-orly-airport-wikimedia-commons
Inside one of the passenger terminals at Paris Orly Airport. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Airlines and Aviation

Air traffic at Paris Orly Airport was disrupted on 18 March 2017 after two soldiers killed a man after he seized a soldier's weapon and threatened to open fire. Can impacted passengers expect compensation?

Flights were cancelled or delayed, roads leading to the airport were closed, and the facility – the French’s capital’s second busiest airport – was flooded with anti-terrorism police.

An estimated 3,000 travelers were evacuated from the airport, and at least 15 flights were diverted to Charles de Gaulle Airport, which handles most of the French capital’s international air traffic.

Orly’s two terminals were reopened and air traffic resumed later in the day.

Which begs the question. Where does an event like this leave airline passengers that were impacted by the incident?

 

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According to Squaremouth, a website that compares travel insurance policies, insurance coverage for impacted travelers would depend on what it calls “known information”.

“While the attack is still under investigation, neither French nor U.S. governments have outright declared it terrorism as of Saturday,” the website says.

“In order for impacted travelers to claim Trip Cancellation due to the attack, it must first be declared a ‘terrorist attack’ by the U.S. Department of State.”

If the Department of State determines that the incident was, in fact, an act of terrorism, the following travelers might be able to claim Trip Cancellation benefits, with a reimbursement of as much as 100% of their travel expenses:

  • Passengers that were delayed due to suspended or cancelled flights as a result of the attack (for at least 12 - 24 hours);
  • Passengers that were unable to reach the airport because of a road closure (for at least 12 - 24 hours);
  • Passengers  with trips to Paris within 30 - 90 days;

Even if the attack is not determined to have been an act of terror, insurance policy owners might still be able to claim compensation if their policy offers benefits for travel delays or missed connections for “any delay of the common carrier”.

This would include passengers that were departing from Orly Airport itself or passengers departing from another airport if their flights were delayed or cancelled because of the incident at Paris Orly Airport.

Covered travelers who experienced extended flight delays or who missed connecting flights might also be eligible for compensation such as the following:

  • Reimbursement for meals, overnight accommodations, and local transportation;
  • Additional transportation expenses to catch up to their trip.

Both benefits would require the traveler to be delayed for at least 3 - 12 hours.

Better Late Than Never?

This might seem like common sense, but SquareMouth is quick to point out that travel insurance must have been purchased BEFORE the incident took place.

Wouldn’t that be tantamount to closing the barn door after the horse escaped?

“In order for any coverage to be applicable, the traveler must have purchased the policy before the attack on Saturday, March 18th,” the website says.

“Those looking to claim under the Trip Cancellation benefit must have insured their trip expenses, in order to be reimbursed. Squaremouth does not recommend travelers purchase a policy now for any benefits related to the event, as coverage is no longer available on new policies.”

What About a 'Known Threat'?

But even if the insurance had already been purchased when the incident occurred, if there had been a “known threat” at the time the ticket was purchased, passengers might not be covered.

“Before you buy a policy that includes coverage for a cancellation due to terrorism, find out whether it limits coverage if there was a prior event in the area within a certain time period before you bought the ticket,” says Amy Bach, Executive Director of United Policyholders, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.

Would that include an incident such as the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris on 13 November 2015, in which attackers armed with assault rifles and explosives targeted six locations across the city, killing at least 130 people?

Or would an event like that be considered to have been too far in the past?

Here is what one travel insurance company has to say:

"Allianz Global Assistance's travel insurance considers international and domestic terrorism to be a covered reason for trip cancellation if a terrorist event happens at your U.S. or foreign destination within 30 days of the day you’re scheduled to arrive.

“However, you're not covered if there has been a terrorist event at your international destination generally within the 30 days before your plan's effective date.”

The bottom line is this: you've got to buy your insurance BEFORE something happens, and make sure to read carefully what is actually covered AND if there are any conditions such as the ones mentioned above.

You might also want to check if your credit card offers travel insurance, and if it does, what is covered. If there are any gaps in your coverage, you might want to invest in a policy that would fill them.

Annual Travel Insurance

I purchase travel insurance on a annual basis - not so much to save money (it would probably be cheaper to buy it trip-by-trip) because of the peace of mind that if offers.

It also means I can travel at short notice without having to remember to purchase travel insurance.

 

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And it DID pay off once when I suffered a bicycling accident during a visit to Phuket, Thailand. All of my medical expenses were fully reimbursed.

I wouldn't recommend that if you only travel occasionally, but for me - since I make several international trips a year - it seems to make sense.

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