Q: My husband and I booked a flight through CheapOair on Air Canada from Chicago to Copenhagen, Denmark, with a return flight from Rome to Chicago. We bought insurance, also through CheapOair, with Trip Mate. We had to cancel the trip because my husband fell ill.
I filed a claim, but Trip Mate denied it, saying that my husband had a pre-existing medical condition. He is 89 years old. Can you help us?
Lorraine Schaefer, Chicago
A: Normally, a case like yours is a nonstarter. Your husband has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and, according to the records you sent, he sought treatment before your trip. It looked like you didn’t have a chance.
Insurance companies don’t always cover pre-existing conditions because if they did, their customers could buy a policy on which they’re more likely to file a claim. And I know what you’re thinking – isn’t that the point of travel insurance? It is. I’m not saying it makes sense.
When Trip Mate reviewed your husband’s claim, it saw that he has COPD and quickly closed the case. I’ve seen this happen time and again. Usually, no amount of arguing will change the outcome.
Except this time.
I should note that there was another complicating factor: your computer skills. Because you were uncomfortable sending your documentation by computer, you asked your son and daughter-in-law for help. When that happens, inevitably things get lost in translation. Even after they furnished all the records, I still didn’t think you had a case.
Your insurance denial is an important reminder to never give up, even when it looks like there’s no hope. But also, for those of you reading this who don’t like computers, consider brushing up on your skills. It can make a difference when you’re trying to fix a consumer problem, whether you’re 9 or 90.
What made me pursue this for you? It was your airline ticket purchased through CheapOair. As it happens, I have a good relationship with the company, and it appeared that the agency had charged you $280 in cancellation fees on top of giving you a flight credit that lasted a year from the date of your initial reservation. And that remaining flight credit was about to expire.
I thought CheapOair might be able to help you with the cancellation fees or negotiate a little more time to use your ticket.
An appeal to one of the executives also might have helped. I list contact information for both CheapOair (Fareportal is its parent company) and Trip Mate on my consumer-advocacy site.
So I contacted CheapOair on your behalf. CheapOair went far beyond a refund: It decided to refile your insurance claim on your behalf. And this time, Trip Mate honored it, paying you $5,367. CheapOair also refunded your cancellation fees.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more at elliott.org, or email email@example.com.