Miles and Insurance

Miles and Insurance

Recently, we read a report from a frequent flyer program member who was surprised when his travel insurance did not reimburse his cost for using his frequent flyer miles to get home after his wife had a medical emergency.

The insurance company helped him secure tickets from Australia for he and his wife back home to San Francisco with his United MileagePlus miles – a total of 320,000 miles for a next-day ticket – this amount was on top of the 255,000 miles the program member originally spent on the flights.

When he got home, he asked the insurance company to reimburse him for his miles and was surprised when they said no. “Had I known that I could not claim frequent flyer miles under this policy,” he said, “I would have paid cash, been reimbursed and be 320,000 miles better off than I am today.” The flyer valued his 320,000 miles at $35 per 1,000 miles, plus 7.5 percent tax (the amount that a member would have to pay to purchase miles). That’s $12,040.

He turned to Christopher Elliot, ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine for help. Elliott said that some travel insurance policies do not cover flights booked with frequent flyer miles because, what is a mile actually worth? He said the insurance company should have disclosed that his miles would not be reimbursed at the time the flights home were being booked. He intervened with the company to find that there was no provision in the policy regarding frequent flyer miles.

Bottom line: The flyer appealed to his state’s insurance commissioner and after several months, the insurance company gave the flyer a check for $11,257 – the amount it deemed he would need to replace the miles. The company acknowledged a miscommunication over whether the flyer should use points or pay for his ticket home.

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