Air travel mishaps--misconnections, delays, lost bags-- happen every day, and although there's travel insurance to protect you against some things, and government regulations or airline policies offer compensation for certain problems like lost bags and involuntary bumping, for many scenarios you're on your own. For example, there's no government or airline compensation if you suffer a long tarmac delay or a misconnection (the airline might get fined if they don't offer to deplane you after three hours, but none of that sees its way into your pocket). Or if your flight is delayed, nothing is owed you. Travel insurance may cover you in certain scenarios, but there are loopholes large enough to fly a 777 through, and if you collect something for your trouble, there are daily or absolute compensation limits that are usually inadequate, forms to fill out, and denied claims.
But now an innovative new company, from the people who started TravelGuard travel insurance (now part of AIG insurance), is aiming to cover snafus not covered elsewhere, with minimal effort on the part of the insured.
AirCare, from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, is a fixed-benefit flight protection plan that compensates passengers for many of the air travel inconveniences that fall through the cracks.
For $25 per trip, AirCare will pay you:
$1000 if you're stuck in the plane ("tarmac" delay) for more than two hours
$1000 if your luggage is lost or stolen
$500 if a flight delay causes you to miss a connecting flight
$500 if your checked luggage is delayed more than 12 hours
$50 if your flight is delayed more than two hours
True, airlines are responsible to reimburse you for lost or delayed bags, but they'll depreciate the value of the contents and require receipts. With AirCare, there's no depreciation of contents. And compensation is in addition to whatever you might eventually collect by complaining to the airline or from a travel insurance policy. And if there's a misconnection, airlines will put you on the next flight if there are seats, but often there aren't. And they won't pay for hotel rooms if you're stuck overnight. $500 could come in handy. I just wonder if crafty travelers will game this by booking those 38-minute connecting flights at Atlanta on incoming flights that are late 90 percent of the time. I hope not.
By the way, these benefits are cumulative. If your flight is delayed and then you're stuck on the tarmac for two or more hours, you get $1050. Miss your connecting flight as a result, and it's $1550.
Of course, there are more things that can go wrong in a flight besides these. AirCare doesn't cover you merely if your flight is canceled, it should be noted; or if the airline announces a schedule change far in advance of departure, for instance, requiring you to purchase an overnight hotel stay in a connecting city. Also, it currently applies only to domestic flights, not international ones.
How it works
AirCare automatically tracks your flight. Miss a connection? AirCare will know, and you immediately get $500. Then they'll help arrange (but not pay for) same-day travel on any airline. To start a claim for delayed bag delivery, you just send a picture of your baggage claim form to start the claims process. Same process if your bag is lost or stolen. And if you're stuck in the plane, AirCare will have tracked your trip in real time and automatically transfer $1000 into your account. It won't get you in the air faster, but it will help ease the pain. Also included is a travel assistance concierge service to help find hotels, rental cars, and alternate flights if something goes awry with your travel plans.
It would be nice if one day a travel insurance company covered all possible pain points of air travel, but that's unlikely. According to AirCare CEO John Noel, however, the company is considering other ways, beyond the five restitutions planned so far, to compensate passengers for things that can go bump in the fight. If it does, we may one day fly much friendlier skies.
Further reading: What are your "rights" when you fly?
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