How to Pick the Best Flight Insurance Policy for Your Next Trip

Here’s what you need to know about flight insurance before you buy.

<p>Caroline Purser/Getty Images</p>

Caroline Purser/Getty Images

From flight delays to damaged bags, air travel can be stressful. Thankfully, there’s a range of flight insurance options that will cover expenses in case something goes wrong and provide peace of mind, even if everything goes as planned.

So, what is flight insurance? Flight insurance is a type of policy that only protects the cost of your flight and flight-related expenses. This type of insurance can include trip cancellation, trip interruption, flight delay, and lost or damaged baggage coverage. Unlike a comprehensive travel insurance policy, flight insurance doesn’t cover things like emergency medical coverage or emergency evacuation.

Here’s everything you need to know about flight insurance so you can decide which plan is best for you.

<p>Chalabala/Getty Images</p>

Chalabala/Getty Images

Pros of Flight Insurance

The obvious benefit of buying flight insurance is that you’ll be protected financially if things go wrong. Even if your trip goes according to plan, the peace of mind you’ll have may be worth the relatively small cost of a basic insurance plan. In 2022, the average cost of a policy was just $266, while the average payout was $2,157, according to Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison website.

Cons of Flight Insurance

Ironically, the biggest con of purchasing flight insurance occurs when your trip goes smoothly.  “If you have it, chances are you won't need it, “ says Faith Ann Liuzzo-Bartholomew, a travel advisor who is a member of the American Society of Travel Advisors. That’s what can make the decision to purchase flight insurance so difficult.

“Flight insurance is a guarantee that your hard-earned dollars and trip plans are protected in case any problems or issues occur,” says Liuzzo-Bartholomew. However, If your trip ends up problem-free, the money spent on flight insurance can feel wasted.

Types of Flight Insurance

There are different types of flight insurance, and each type of policy covers different aspects of a trip.

Airline-issued Flight Insurance Policies

You can buy flight insurance directly from the airline when you’re purchasing a ticket. For example, American Airlines offers flight insurance policies through Allianz Travel that include trip cancellation and trip delay coverage, as well as lost and damaged bag protection. United Airlines offers policies through AIG that include coverage for flight cancellations, missed connections, and lost baggage.

These types of policies tend to offer bare-bones coverage, according to Liuzzo-Bartholomew.

“If you add the insurance through the airlines with your flight purchase, it is more of a budget policy and includes the basics for delays, cancellations, luggage issues, and re-bookings.”

Comprehensive Travel Insurance Policies

If you are planning an expensive trip or would rather pay a little more upfront for additional peace of mind, a comprehensive travel insurance policy may be a good option. This type of policy can still have many variables but will generally cover more than just a flight insurance policy.

For even more flexibility, keep an eye out for a policy that includes the option to upgrade to “Cancel for Any Reason” insurance. A CFAR policy allows travelers to cancel a trip for reasons not covered in their base insurance policy. There are additional restrictions on when you can add CFAR insurance and when a trip needs to be canceled to qualify for reimbursement.

Credit Card Travel Insurance

Many credit cards come with complimentary flight insurance that can cover you in the event of disrupted travel plans. For some travelers, the coverage provided by their credit card may be enough.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a top-notch policy that includes trip cancellation and interruption coverage, lost and delayed baggage coverage, and trip delay insurance that kicks in just six hours after a flight’s scheduled departure time. Another premium credit card, The Platinum Card from American Express, includes trip cancellation, interruption, and trip delay insurance.

Since we’re talking about flight insurance, you may assume that all airline co-branded credit cards come with flight insurance. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Some, like the United Club Infinite Card, include trip cancellation/interruption coverage, while others, like the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, don’t have any type of insurance.

Keep in mind that it’s important to purchase your flight with the card that has the insurance coverage for the policy to be valid.

<p>Giselleflissak/Getty Images</p>

Giselleflissak/Getty Images

How to Choose the Best Policy

There are different types of flight insurance policies, so you’ll want to do some research to find the one that best fits your needs.

Mitch Krayton, owner of Krayton Travel and a member of the American Society of Travel Advisors, advises his clients to think about what matters most to them. “Ask what risk you are most concerned about in your travels and what support and financial compensation you are willing to pay a premium for.”

The type of flight insurance policy you’ll need will depend largely on what type of traveler you are. A couple who enjoys weekend trips to different destinations in the U.S. might not need much more than what is offered by the airline or is available through a credit card.

However, Pamela Holt, travel expert and host of “Me, Myself & The World: The Art of Solo Travel” on Amazon Prime, illustrates an opposite scenario.  “Someone like me, who is constantly traveling solo throughout the year to remote locations and requires some flexibility with travel dates, will likely upgrade to a more comprehensive travel insurance plan,” she says.

<p>Virojt Changyencham/Getty Images</p>

Virojt Changyencham/Getty Images

How to Use Flight Insurance

Picture yourself right after your flight gets canceled. The airline rebooks you on the next flight out, but it’s not until the following morning, Even if a hotel voucher is provided, you’ll still end up with out-of-pocket costs. Flight insurance can reimburse you for those extra expenses like transportation to and from the hotel and meals that won’t be covered by the airline.

If you’re making a claim on your credit card’s travel insurance, you’ll need to charge any expenses on the card that has the insurance. Save all of your receipts and grab any relevant screenshots that show your flight was delayed or canceled.

If you need to file a claim for damaged baggage, act fast. Most airlines require you to submit a claim within 24 hours of landing. Airlines are required to cover some damage in certain situations, but having a flight insurance policy can fill in the gaps between what they cover and what your out-of-pocket expenses actually are.

If you purchased a flight insurance policy from your airline or a travel insurance company, you’ll need receipts for all of your unreimbursed expenses and proof of your disrupted travel plans. Be sure to file a claim as soon as you get home, as many policies have timing requirements.

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