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Flight delay or cancellation insurance in practice

Find out how Hyacinth, a loyal milesopedia reader and avid member of the Milesopedia Facebook group, put his American Express card’s insurance coverage to good use on a recent trip.

Flight delay or cancellation insurance in practice

At the beginning of February, I had to travel to Montreal for a weekend from my home town of Moncton, New Brunswick. If the outbound flight went smoothly, a snowstorm was announced for my return date.

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Montreal in winter

Due to the bad weather, my flights were unfortunately cancelled by Westjet. But, since I had paid for my tickets with my American Express Gold Rewards Card, the assistance of American Express during my delay was a huge help.

Overview of the insurance claims process

When I learned my flight was cancelled, I first tried to contact the airline (Westjet), to try to get rebooked on a same day flight with a partner airline. In this case, Air Canada had seats available on the direct Montreal-Moncton flight.

Although competitors, the two airlines have a bilateral agreement when it comes to protecting their passengers affected by flight disruptions. This applies only to domestic flights within Canada, and for a flight on the same date as originally booked.

Unfortunately, I had to wait a long time to get the assistance of an agent.

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Your estimated wait time to speak with a counselor is…

The phone lines were overloaded, so I went to the airport to find a solution in person.

When I finally got served, Westjet did not have access to any seats on the Air Canada flight. The only solution offered was to travel the next day at noon, exactly 24 hours late on my reservation! Since my flight was cancelled due to weather, Westjet was under no obligation to provide assistance for my extra night in Montreal.

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What to do?

I contacted the number on the back of my American Express Gold Rewards Card to find out what insurance coverage I was entitled to.

J’amex logowas immediately put in touch with a representative of the insurance company. He reviewed my situation to determine my rights. After asking me a few questions, he told me that I could be reimbursed up to CA$500 for my reasonable living expenses (hotel, restaurant, etc…) incurred during this delay. I was also told that I would soon receive an email detailing the supporting documentation required to process my claim.

I was very pleased with the quality of service I received: the agent was courteous and knowledgeable, and handled my call quickly. When I had additional questions that he couldn’t answer right away, he took the trouble to go and find out and give me a clear answer.

Once these formalities were completed, all that remained was to choose a hotel!

The Marriott Montreal Airport Terminal Hotel

img 0008Being a Gold member in the Marriott Bonvoy program (thanks to my American Express Platinum card benefits), I had a preference for a Marriott Bonvoy hotel. Our choice was theMarriott Montreal Airport Terminal Hotel, located directly in the Montreal airport.

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Marriott Montreal Airport Terminal Hotel – Credit: Marriott

We could have chosen to return to the city center. But because of all the stress of our morning adventures, we wanted to rest and make the most of the services offered by the hotel. With a budget of $500, it didn’t seem like a problem.

So we booked a deluxe room for $205. My status with Marriott gave us access to the Concierge Lounge with breakfast included. Thanks to this access, we could enjoy a happy hour with hors d’oeuvres (salads, mini-burgers, wraps, soups, cheeses, fruits and desserts) as well as a honor bar (paying).

We also asked if it was possible to upgrade to a suite. This would have been possible with an additional charge of about $80. We finally declined the offer because we plan to have all our meals at the hotel. In addition, we wanted to set aside enough money in case the hotel’s restaurant rates turned out to be excessive.

Although we checked in just after noon (and only 30 minutes after making the reservation), we were able to get a room with a view of the airport runways immediately. An excellent point in my opinion. #AvGeek!

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Marriott Montreal Airport Terminal Hotel – Runway View

Here are some pictures of the room to give you an idea:

A little surprise that will please all AvGeeks passing through Montreal: a flyer showing all the companies and types of planes that can be seen at YUL. Very nice attention!

After settling in the room, we went back down to the second floor to have our dinner in the hotel restaurant.

The prices are quite high but you have to remember that we are inside the airport. Also, the restaurant has no immediate competition. The price of our meal for 2 people, including refreshments, taxes and tip was $105.83.

By taking our meal at the hotel, it was also intended to simplify our claim. All of our expenses were charged to our room folio, eliminating the need to keep receipts for each transaction.


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Marriott Montreal Airport Terminal Hotel – Restaurant – Credit: Marriott

We also tried the hotel pool, which is rather small and shallow. Especially since during our visit, it was used by families with young children, which limits its interest if you really want to swim. However, a Jacuzzi is also offered, which has proven to be excellent for relaxing and eliminating the stress of the day.

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Marriott Montreal Airport Terminal Hotel – Pool – Credit: Marriott

Once rested, it was time to discover what the Concierge Lounge on the top floor had to offer. In addition to offering a superb view of the slopes, the food is quite varied. We were able to eat enough for a nice light supper, and the alcohol selection is complete with wines, beers, spirits.

My only criticism is that the bar is cash.

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Marriott Montreal Airport Terminal Hotel – Lounge – Cash Bar

At the Sheraton Montreal Airport Hotel, for example, located a few minutes away, the Club Lounge offers complimentary beer and wine during 5-à-7, with a selection of hors d’oeuvres almost on par with the Marriott.

Later in the evening, we returned to the restaurant to order one last bite, and one last drink, for $56.44. We obviously wanted to reach a final amount as close to $500 as possible.

On the morning of our departure, when we checked the total on our room folio, we realized that we could take a bottle of wine from the mini-bar(at $25!) and ended up with a total of $485.56.

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Montreal Marriott Airport Terminal Hotel – Room
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Montreal Marriott Airport Terminal Hotel – Final Bill

 

The claim for reimbursement

Once I arrived home, I gathered all the required documents to complete my application. In addition to filling out a form, here is what we were asked to do:

  • A copy of the account statement including the total cost of the ticket, the card name, the last four digits of the card and the card used to pay;
  • A copy of the invoice and itinerary from the travel agency;
  • Original receipts detailing actual expenses incurred;
  • Replacement boarding passes
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Be sure to submit all required documents

In my case, the case was quite simple. All receipts for the flight reservations were emailed to me and the expenses were all grouped together on the hotel bill. Good point to specify: no justification of the delay to obtain from the airline.

So I was able to quickly send all these documents, by email, making the process extremely easy.

Processing the request

About a month after I sent in my receipts, I still hadn’t received a refund or heard from the insurance company (other than an automatic acknowledgement of receipt of my documents). So I resolved to follow up with an email.

Within a few days I received the following response:

Good morning, sir,
Global Excel Management Inc. is the authorized administrator for the above mentioned insurance policy.
Thank you for following up on your complaint. We are currently managing a large volume of claims that are extending our normal turnaround times. Rest assured that we are working diligently to complete applications in a timely manner. We have received your documents and your coverage has been confirmed. The evaluator should begin assessing your file shortly and if there are any incorrect or missing documents, we will notify you.

I did not receive another message afterwards. Nevertheless, a few weeks later, I received a check covering the totality of the claimed fees.

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Insurance reimbursement

Bottom line

In total, there was a delay of almost two months between the sending of my refund request and the receipt of my check.

I find these timeframes to be quite high. In my case, the expenses incurred were reasonable, so I had no problem advancing the funds pending reimbursement. However, this could be a problem if more substantial expenses had to be incurred.

Apart from this hiccup due to an influx of demand, the insurance company was very responsive and extremely professional. This reflects my experience with American Express.

What could be improved is to proactively communicate when processing times are longer than normal. Finally, reimbursement could be offered in the form of direct deposit to reduce the overall processing time of the application.

For my part, I’m pretty happy with the way things turned out. I had never had the chance to stay at this hotel and I was able to earn a lot of Marriott points in the process.

My only regret is that I did not use my American Express Platinum card to purchase my airline ticket. I could have benefited from $1000 in coverage in that situation. I learned my lesson and have been making sure to choose the card I use based on the benefits it offers.

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!

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