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Flight insurance may not be a bargain

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Flyers who buy travel insurance to guard against losing money on non-refundable tickets or change fees are being advised to read the fine print.

The National Consumers League (NCL) on Monday said advertising for those policies by online travel agencies or airlines can be misleading. The non-profit group issued a report that said flyers who see promises of “worry-free” travel and that “peace of mind is only a click away,” should take time to learn about the limitations and exclusions defined in the fine print of these policies.

“The fact is, stuff happens and consumers may need to change or cancel a flight,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director. “Consumers who want to hedge against the risk of expensive change fees by buying travel insurance often find that they aren’t covered when the unexpected happens.”

The group’s report says cancellation and change fees now amount to more than $2.5 billion in airline revenue. Passengers worried about those fees if they have to cancel or change a flight are paying $1.9 billion for travel insurance and related services, the report said.

“In comparison to a potential $200 cancellation fee, 5 percent of the cost of the ticket for travel insurance may seem like a great deal to many consumers,” said NCL vice president John Breyault, who authored the report. “All too often, however, consumers find that the protection they thought they had is denied due to pre-existing condition exclusions and other fine print.”