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I’ve been traveling all over the country to see my family since I was a teenager. My parents taught me how to scour the internet for the best deals, and how to pick airlines that offered free checked bags. While completing a flight purchase, however, there was one thing we always skipped: travel insurance.
Travel insurance covers financial risks associated with flying, such as flight cancellations, lost luggage, and emergency evacuation.
Some airlines, like JetBlue, include travel insurance as an extra expense at the end of the checkout process, while others, like Southwest, ask you to use a third-party service to insure your flights. Some travel credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, add free travel insurance as a perk when you use that card to book flights.
Personally, I always thought getting travel insurance was a waste of money. I could easily spend the extra $70 on dinner with friends, or tickets to a few museums. But this year, traveling felt riskier.
I considered getting travel insurance to give me peace of mind in case I got COVID-19
Between September and mid-October, I traveled to four different cities: Chicago, St. Louis, New York, and Albuquerque — all while working remotely. Even though I’m quadruple-vaccinated, I wanted flexibility to be able to cancel my flights last-minute just in case I got COVID-19. As a young person, I know the physical effects would be bearable, but I didn’t want to spread the virus to more vulnerable populations.
Getting travel insurance could help me get reimbursed if I needed to cancel my flight due to COVID-19. Plus, I’ve read that labor shortages are causing airlines to lose 30% more checked bags this summer. Since I would be traveling for a long time, I wanted extra insurance that I’d be compensated if my checked bags were lost.
I read each airline’s flight cancellation policy carefully to decide if I needed travel insurance
I’ve been flying with the same two airlines for over 10 years: JetBlue and Southwest.
My family and I prefer flying with Southwest because of its flexible cancellation policy. Southwest lets you cancel your flights for free up to 10 minutes before the plane is set to take off — even after you’ve already checked in and arrived at your gate. Your cancelled flight gets turned into store credit that you can use to purchase a new flight. Because of this flexibility, it didn’t make sense for me to add travel insurance to my Southwest flights.
JetBlue doesn’t have the same flexible policy. They charge a $100 cancellation fee if you book your flight using Blue Basic, the cheapest option, which I typically use. If you book your flight using the higher-priced tiers — Blue, Blue Extra, Blue Plus, and Mint — you don’t have to pay a cancellation fee to change your flight.
Still, I love flying JetBlue because there’s significantly more legroom on their planes than any other airline. On top of that, some Southwest workers are currently on strikefor better working conditions, and I wanted to support them by buying from a different airline if it made sense financially.
In the end, I booked six flights: four with Southwest and two with JetBlue. I decided to spend $70 on travel insurance for each of the JetBlue flights after carefully combing through each airline’s cancellation policy.
Travel insurance gave me extra confidence while traveling
Traveling in a post-COVID world is so strange. Something that was once as simple as grabbing dinner with friends, or seeing a Broadway show with my aunt, carries the risk of spreading a deadly, life-changing virus to people at high risk.
With so much to worry about, travel insurance crossed off the biggest one: I can change my travel plans if I get sick, without losing the entire cost of the flight.