Devil's in details forInsurance fight

| Juliana Chen 17 Jul 2019

"The act of God designation on all insurance policies; which means, roughly, that you cannot be insured for the accidents that are most likely to happen to you."

A friend highlighted this quote by English humorist, writer and satirist Alan Coren to vent her frustration over the disproportionate hardship she encountered in claiming compensation for a recent flight delay.

She was on her way to the airport at 4.30pm when she learned that her flight to Los Angeles scheduled for 8pm was suddenly delayed until 9am the next day.

In view of other more pressing issues, not least the scramble for seats on the rescheduled flight and the connecting flight to San Francisco, the insurance claim was only pursued after the trip.

Confirmation about the reason for the 13-hour delay (incorrect decs/paper work) came from the airline without much ado, but the customer relations officer made a typo about the date of occurrence.

She asked for an amended version and clarification of the abbreviation: "decs."

A prompt response arrived, stating that it was caused by "incorrect operations/paper work."

She duly sent the documents to the insurance company.

Three days later, she received a regret letter that said bluntly "the reason for the flight delay is not one which is covered by the policy."

Flabbergasted but still patient, she read on and spotted a crack where she could launch a comeback. She noticed that under the travel delay clause of the policy, the insurance company would entertain claims "where such delay is caused directly by inclement weather, natural disaster, equipment failure, hijack or strike by the employees of the common carrier during the insured journey."

She wrote to the airline again seeking elaboration on "incorrect operations," and got a response saying that the plane was delayed due to "maintenance."

She then asked whether the extraordinary maintenance was necessitated by equipment failure.

The officer apologized, writing that he had nothing further to add regarding the "specific mechanical failure."

Bingo! My friend wrote back to the airline officer requesting a fresh verification e-mail stating that the flight delay was caused by "mechanical failure."

While the insurance experts were pondering the difference between "mechanical failure" and "equipment failure," the skilful claimant sought an update of her appeal with a threat to alert the Insurance Authority and the Consumer Council.

The reward for this paper/e-mail chase was a mere HK$300 as the delay fell short of the 15-hour threshold for HK$1,000.

Retired senior civil servant Juliana Chen is a passionate crystal collector who shares the good things in life

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