Kylie Stine | Feb 4, 2020
I always responded to these lectures with a roll of the eyes and a mumbled, “Whatever.” I assumed this advice applied to reckless activities like driving too fast or partying too hard. When it came to those types of activities, I knew my limits and felt responsible. The infamous “It can’t happen to me” attitude didn’t apply to me in those cases.
It never crossed my mind that that same attitude would be the cause of my demise when it came to insurance: a word that triggers tears (whether from fear, boredom, or confusion) for my young comrades and me.
These days, insurance seems to be a part of every bundle. If I buy concert tickets, I have the option to purchase insurance for them. If I buy a new bike, I can purchase a two-year protection plan with it. If I buy a new iPhone, I can get Apple Care in
case I end up damaging it before my contract ends. Even some of the clothes I buy online have the option of purchasing shipping and handling insurance in case something goes wrong during the delivery process. I always ignored these options, believing
that they were simply ways for companies to rake up more money from policies for which customers would never have to file claims.
For this reason, I passed on purchasing any type of travel insurance for my week-long summer vacation in New York City. I mean, I’ve traveled tons of times and never needed it. My dad travels almost every month for work, and he’s never needed it. Until recently, I hadn’t even heard of travel insurance. I thought I’d be fine.
Don’t get me wrong, the trip was fun. Save for the countless people and trash that crowd the sidewalks, the city is a magical one. However, my magic trip had the farthest thing from a fairytale ending.
Because I am frugal (or cheap, some might say), I purchased the least expensive flight I could find online when booking my trip. I got a 7:35 p.m. returning flight from Newark to Indianapolis. After a fun-filled week, my parents and I packed our bags and headed to the airport Saturday afternoon. Once we arrived at Newark, I waited in line to check my bags for over half an hour, walked through the security line that advanced at a crawling pace, and finally found my gate.
Around 6:45 p.m., I got an email saying that my flight was canceled.
No delay, no reschedule. Just plain, flat out, canceled. I asked my dad what to do, and he said we’d have to get on standby for the next flight out. We tried to contact customer service, but it was a forty-minute wait on the phone and a two-hour wait in line at the airport. I pulled out my pillow and blanket, realizing it was time to get comfortable, as we wouldn’t be going anywhere any time soon.
Once my dad finally spoke with customer service, we learned that we could be on standby (airport code for on the list, but not guaranteed) for the 9:45 a.m. flight. Yet to have eaten dinner, my dad asked for the sake of all our stomachs and sanity if we could have food or hotel vouchers. United’s answer? Unfortunately, no.
It was at this point that I realized I was the only one in our family to check a bag. If our flight was canceled, how would I see it again? I searched throughout the terminal for United agents. I found three, and I asked each of them how I could make sure my suitcase got back to Indiana. Their reviews were mixed: One said it would be delivered on the next flight to Indianapolis and be waiting for me when I returned, and two said it would be on the flight I ended up taking. Either way, this meant my bag and I would be reunited at the Indianapolis airport. This was the first good news of the day (Spoiler alert: None of these agents were right.)
At this point in the evening, we knew there was nothing much we could do but wait. After a late dinner, my mom and I made a makeshift bed out of a floor mat we found behind a check-in desk (shhh, don’t tell … we put it back!), our travel blankets, and our backpacks.
My dad, hopeful to move us from standby to guaranteed seats, got in line at customer service around 11 p.m. At around 1:30 a.m., he came back with travel-sized toothbrushes, two airport pillows, and a towel-sized blanket for us. I’m sure we looked pathetic as the three of us crammed in our 5 x 5 space and attempted to sleep. The abundance of lights, restaurant music, intercom that repeated the same message every ten minutes, and other airport buzz made any form of shuteye almost impossible.
Around 5 a.m., I gave up any chance I had at sleep and got out my laptop to do homework. At 6 a.m., we grabbed some breakfast and took a bus to a different terminal — it was at this new terminal where Sunday’s flights to Indianapolis would be. We soon found out that the 9:45 a.m. flight was full, but we could be put on standby for a 1:00 p.m. flight. I found myself a chair and, for the first time in my life, fell asleep sitting up.
At 11:30 a.m., my parents woke me up and told me the 1:00 p.m. flight was also full. We grabbed lunch, making it our third airport meal in the last 15 hours. I began to wonder if I should write a farewell letter to my family and friends at home, telling them that if I didn’t die waiting on a flight, the airport food would probably kill me.
Finally, we were confirmed for two different flights to Indianapolis: two of us on a 1:55 p.m. flight, and one of us on a 3:45 p.m. flight. My dad said my mom and I could go on the 1:55 p.m. flight since I had to work the next morning. Unfortunately, an email came around 1:30 p.m. that informed us a member of the flight crew had not yet arrived from his previous flight, so our flight was once again delayed. Finally, at 3:30 p.m., my father parted ways with my mother and me as we boarded our respective planes. About an hour into our flight, the attendant informed us we had to take a slight detour due to weather, in turn delaying our arrival time.
At 6:30 p.m., we finally touched down in Indianapolis. After 23 hours in an airport, I had NEVER been so happy in my life to be in the Midwest. I headed to baggage claim to get my bag, assuming I’d see it on the carousel or in the baggage center.
After 20 minutes and no bag, I asked an agent to look up the number on my claim check to find out where my suitcase was. The answer? Still. In. Newark. She took my address and said it would be delivered to me that evening. Instead of heading home dragging a heavy suitcase, I headed home with a heavy heart.
By 10 p.m., I still had no suitcase. I called the Help Center and was told it would be delivered by midnight. I knew I needed to sleep if I wanted to be productive at work the next day, so I said a prayer and hoped I’d wake up to my suitcase on my porch in the morning.
Monday morning, it wasn’t there. With no hair straightener and no makeup, I threw my hair in a ponytail, swiped on some mascara my grandma let me borrow, and headed to work. I spent the entire day feeling self conscious, confining myself to my cubicle and hoping no one would notice me.
When I returned home that day, my suitcase had been delivered, and order had been restored. However, I realized with a trip protection plan, this trip could’ve turned out so differently.
Seven Corners’ Trip Delay coverage allows for reimbursement of additional hotel, meal, and local transportation costs. Depending on our plan, we could’ve had $100 to $150 per person per day to cover various expenses. Instead of sleeping on the floor and eating airport food, we could’ve
1. Left the airport and been reimbursed for transportation via Uber or taxi.
2. Eaten at real restaurants and been reimbursed for meal costs.
3. Booked a hotel stay and been reimbursed for the hotel cost.
4. Made new flight arrangements via phone or computer from the comforts of a hotel rather than waiting in line for hours to speak with customer service.
Just a small amount of investment could’ve saved my family so much time and money. This Unite-mare made me realize that yes, indeed, the worst could happen to me, and that travel insurance should definitely be something I purchase when booking future trips.
Kylie Stine is a current Butler University student studying Strategic Communication and Spanish with a minor in International Business. Aside from school, Kylie is passionate about traveling, music, writing, and ice cream (depending on the day, not necessarily in that order).