Allianz. Never Again.

Advice on Travel Insurance

          Have you ever used Allianz, a travel insurance company associated with Hotwire? If you buy airline tickets via Hotwire, you know that there is an option to include, and pay, for travel protection with Allianz — particularly for lost luggage. I have purchased it twice. The second time was the last time.

Wait a second! I remembered that bulky luggage very well. I remember it because it stirred a bit of attention among the security officers at Columbus airport
          Before explaining why, let me share a story. On my Delta Airlines flight DL 6040 from Columbus, Ohio to JFK, my carry-on luggage disappeared. I was literally the last passenger to leave the plane and, while still sitting and waiting for my turn to exit, I saw my luggage being taken out of the plane’s belly. When I exited the plane, there was only one piece of luggage waiting on the tarmac. Not mine.

          Wait a second! I remembered that bulky luggage very well. I remember it because it stirred a bit of attention among the security officers at Columbus airport. It was there unattended, long enough for the TSA guys to surround it and announce over the speakers that there is an unattended bag sitting in the waiting area. Few minutes later a woman aloofly claimed the luggage.

          Because of that commotion, I noticed the bag: bulkier than average with a belt strapped across it as a safety precaution. That exact bag was the only one left on the tarmac in front of the plane. I started running toward the gate like Jim Carrey in “Dumb and Dumber”, hoping to reach whoever took my bag. I was and still am in total belief that it was her who took it. There is a slight similarity to our bags but, honestly only from afar. Colors and brand don’t match at all. Mine was blue, hers green. Unfortunately no luck. She and my bag disappeared.

The entire Harry Potter volume cost less than one textbook for college class.

          I sped downstairs to the Baggage Claim Office. Its crew seemed overwhelmed with the number of people looking for their lost belongings. There, while waiting to fill out the paperwork, and stepping in and out nervously expecting to see that woman bring my bag back, on the carousel I spotted that bulky bag. For obvious reasons, after no one claimed the mysterious bag on the tarmac, they placed it on the carousel. I grabbed it like a maniac, brought it at the office and, not calmly, pointed out that this is the bag of the person who took my bag! Open it please, I cried, and see if there is any information to contact that person. I started frantically unzipping it and, before the crew stopped me, I saw a laptop and a pair of woman’s underwear. A staffer put her gloves on, took the bag and disappeared in the other room. When she came back she said that they could not find any contact information, that it does look like it belongs to a woman because there was women’s underwear inside and, I think that she said this too, that they cannot search deeper because they are not allowed to. In my lost bag I had my tablet, winter clothes, you know, stuff, and, more importantly, textbooks for my class. You know how much they cost? The entire Harry Potter volume cost less than one textbook for college class.

          At the counter I asked, still with a panic in my voice, why even bother with a pink slip that matches identification slip on your bag. “Why, if obviously anyone can pick up any bag and leave with it without any control?” Except, truth be told, for a situation like this… when a bag disappears. Although, it must be a rare thing for a carry-on to disappear, a carry on that you carry on until embarking a plane. Even for a carry-on, airlines give a slip, smaller part of the bigger portion that they attach to your bag.

Lost Luggage

          I left the airport with a glimmer of hope that this woman will realized that she has someone else’s bag in her hands and will return it later today, maybe tomorrow.  I was positive my bag arrived at JFK, after all, I saw it thru the window. I called Delta airlines the next day and heard an automated message that my bag had been located at JFK and that the Baggage Service Officer will contact me soon to arrange delivery. No one called that day. I called again the following day, and got the same message. Needless to say, it took a while until I reached a live operator. She informed me that the bag located at the airport is not mine. The file number assigned at the airport was wrong, meaning I got a file number for a bag that belongs to someone else. I had to refile a claim from scratch. Meanwhile, as things seemed less hopeful, I asked for reimbursement. That did not go smoothly because the Delta’s tariff rules and ticket contract does not cover electronic equipment, regardless if the bag is checked or not. “However, based on circumstances…”, it said in an email, “…we feel that an exception is warranted in this case.” They sent a check for $1,383.76.

Travel Insurance?

          I was expecting to receive a reimbursement from Allianz, too. After all, spending a few extra bucks and buying travel insurance seemed like the smart thing to do. Unfortunately, the “Caveat Emptor” (buyer beware) advice applies to this too. I contacted Allianz while waiting for Delta to resolve the problem. It was like approaching a giant, non-emotional robot. First of all, the procedure to file a claim with Allianz is way too cumbersome to call it smooth. Signing a lease for a car felt less complicated. Actually, I was discouraged to file the claim because, as the rep explained over the phone, “you really don’t have a chance to be reimbursed, but you can try.” Why no chance? Because…listen to this, ”You have arrived at your final destination, where you live, and our policy does not include coverage in this situation.” Yes, that’s what the Allianz representative said over the phone. No reimbursement because I have arrived at my final destination. She added that they “would reimburse me if, for example, I lost my bag on vacation in Aruba (for example) and I need money to buy new clothes.” When you get home, she continued, we assume you have clothes and anything else you might need.

Travel Protection!?

Thus, there is no reason to be compensated. And there is no reason for me to buy their insurance ever again.

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