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Travel Agent Faces Hurdles in Canceling Egypt TravelJanuary 31, 2011 By: Jena Tesse Fox
We reached out to Malaka Hilton, a popular travel agent, to find out how she was handling the crisis in Egypt for her clients. To our surprise, her biggest problem wasn’t the airlines … but an insurance company.
A bit of context: Hilton has clients scheduled to travel to Egypt on February 19 — more than two weeks away, but probably not enough time for the situation in the North African nation to return to pre-protest levels of stability. Fortunately (she thought), her clients had their trip insured through Travelex, so when her clients decided to go elsewhere for their vacation, she reached out to the insurance company to get their money back.
That was when she ran into problems: "I called the insurance company, and they said that based on the situation today, the clients are not covered. I said, 'The state department is flying people out of the destination and I have to tell my clients that their investment with you is not covered?'"
Hilton was told that she would have to wait until February 19 to see if the clients could get their money back, making it too late for them to make other travel arrangements. Worse, she learned, if her clients had purchased “Cancel for Any Reason” insurance, they would only recoup 60 percent of their investment.
"Insurance is something I’ve always believed in," Hilton said. "Am I naïve to think that an insurance company would want to protect a traveler rather than themselves?"
Still, Hilton added, she doesn’t feel that Americans in Cairo are in immediate danger. "It’s not that they feel unsafe, they just feel trapped because they can’t get out," she said. "It’s not a matter of people feeling unsafe, because there’s no direct threat. But prisoners are in the streets, and that’s when people get unnerved."
For agents whose clients have insured upcoming trips to Egypt, Hilton encouraged them to "voice their concerns strongly" to their travel insurance company. "I think if we all stick together on the retail side through our respective consortia, we will have a stronger voice," she said.