Travel Troubleshooter

Travel Troubleshooter: Taken for a ride on insurance?

By Christopher Elliott

Q: We love train travel, so my husband booked a vacation through Amtrak Vacations for a mid-June trip from Baltimore to New Orleans. When he received the reservation invoice, there was an additional charge of $198 for travel insurance.

The problem is, we never buy travel insurance, and certainly didn’t intend to in this instance. My husband immediately contacted the agency via email. It didn’t respond. He called our travel agent, who claimed my husband did accept the insurance, but since he didn’t want it, she would relay his concern to a supervisor who would call back.

Amtrak Vacations reviewed the recording of the reservation and confirmed that he had accepted the insurance. The company would not provide him with a transcript of the conversation, nor would it refund the charge.

It seems crazy that six months in advance of the trip it can’t adjust the reservation. I’m hopeful that your magic skills can intervene here.

Sarah Stevens-Rayburn, Baltimore

A: First of all, congratulations on a great vacation choice. I reviewed your itinerary, and it looks like a lot of fun. And there’s no better way to see America than by train.

You booked your trip through Amtrak Vacations, which is operated by Yankee Leisure Group, a tour operator. Technically, you made your reservation through that company. Still, a request for a refund shouldn’t have been a problem. Many travel insurance companies offer what’s called a “free look” period. This allows you to cancel your policy within a certain amount of time. But a review of your policy shows it is completely nonrefundable. So if Amtrak Vacations said you ordered the insurance, and it has a recording that proves it, you’re stuck with it, right?

No.

If companies record their customer calls, then you should have a right to hear the recording. The technology exists today to make these recorded calls available to customers.

You could have appealed your case to someone higher up at Amtrak. I list the names and numbers of Amtrak’s executives on my website: http://elliott.org/company-contacts/amtrak/.

Incidentally, travel insurance isn’t a bad idea. A good insurance policy can protect your vacation, and is always worth considering. But you shouldn’t have to pay for something you didn’t order.

Amtrak Vacations needed to do more than say you’d ordered travel insurance; it needed to prove it.

I contacted Amtrak on your behalf to see if it could furnish you with either a transcript or a recording. It reviewed your request one more time and decided to refund your $198.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more tips on his blog, elliott.org. Email him at chris@elliott.org.

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