I wanted to share a story of my customer's recent trip to Cancun. It wasn't what they had planned or expected, but it turned out okay.
My customers from Chicago, a young couple with a new baby, had reached out to me about a year ago to have me book them an all-inclusive family vacation to Cancun for May 2020. It was to celebrate their child's first birthday. I booked the package and strongly encouraged that they have travel insurance (as I do with everyone), not only to protect their investment if they need to cancel the trip, but also to protect themselves while traveling in Mexico; especially with a young child. They agreed....thank goodness.
Covid hit and their trip was cancelled by the company I booked the package through. They were given credit for all their money for resort stay, flights, and airport transfers plus an additional 25% as compensation for the cancellation.
About a month later, they asked to rebook the same resort package for early October 2020, so I took care of doing that for them. And I was able to move their existing travel insurance policy to this new trip because no claim was made against the original cancelled booking. Now remember, October is during Hurricane season (June-November).
They flew to Cancun on Friday, October 2nd with no issues. I saw on the 3rd that there was a big storm currently hitting Cancun and another storm on the way (it was not yet a hurricane). I reached out to them and they responded that they were doing okay and the staff was taking good care of them. They were hoping the sun would come out soon.
I checked the weather daily and as I went to sleep on Monday, October 5th, it still was just a tropical storm. When I woke up on the 6th at 6am Arizona time (same as west coast), I had a text from these customers stating that Hurricane Delta is now a Cat 2 hurricane and should hit Cancun on the 7th. What?!!! Who knew this storm would increase to a Cat 2 so quickly.
Of course they were scared and wanted to get out of there before it hit. The resort was going to evacuate them to a safe place at around 3pm later that day and did not want to be a part of that with a small child in tow.
On the phone I went. The customer tried calling the airlines too, but they kept getting cut off due to bad connections and many of the websites were coming up only in Spanish. If they could find a flight online, by the time they went to book it, it was gone.
After two hours on hold with various airlines/the travel insurance company/the package supplier both from on my cell phone and my office line simultaneously, still in my pajamas, no coffee or breakfast, and many, many texts back and forth with the customers, I was able to get them all seats on one of the last flights out of Cancun at 7pm that night!!! It was only to Houston and not Chicago, but it got them out of the path of the hurricane.
But then I had heard that they may shut down the Cancun airport at 5pm that day so we needed a back up plan. They were not comfortable renting a car to drive out of the hurricane's path or taking a bus because they didn't have a child car seat. Not having a car seat was a complicating factor in this entire situation. I suggested that they head to the airport and see if they can get standby on an earlier flight, split up and go on different flights if there's only one seat left, or maybe they can obtain more accurate information there at the airport. If worse came to worse, there might be other travelers in the same situation that they could share a car with to drive them to a safer area for the next night or two.
So at around 10am Cancun time, they packed up and headed to the airport. They said the gate agents told them that they were very hopeful that the 7pm flight was going to fly. I was still calling the airline to see if seats on an earlier flight opened up or if there were a couple flights with just one seat available, but everything was booking up so fast.
The next hurdle was to get a hotel room in Houston (or wherever they would land) and a return flight home to Chicago the next day. Once we were confident they were taking that flight to Houston, hotel room near the airport and flight home was booked. But remember, no car seat. So I called the hotel and asked if their airport shuttle would have a car seat and they said yes, they'll note it for the evening staff to put a car seat in the shuttle.
And later that evening I received a text from the customers that they landed safely in Houston and were at the hotel!!!!! Oh my gosh I was so relieved.
Without a travel agent, they would most likely have been stuck in an evacuation center with possibly no food/water/electricity or be forced to sleep somewhere at the airport while the hurricane hit...with a 16 month old.
Now they've missed more than 50% of their trip and incurred all this additional costs for flights, hotel, etc. And that flight to Houston was $1,800 just for that one leg!
This is where the travel insurance comes in. Because they had a good travel insurance policy, they'll be reimbursed for the unused portion of their resort stay, the unused airline ticket for their previously scheduled return date, the new airline tickets to Houston and Chicago, their hotel stay in Houston, etc.
I had the insurance company send the proper paperwork on Tuesday so they can start the process of submitting their claim after they got home on Wednesday. They have since submitted all their supporting documents and the insurance company is reviewing it. If history repeats itself, they should be paid within the next couple of weeks.
This is the text I received after they got home....
Kim, thank you so much for all your help and hard work to get us out of there. There were plenty of people at the airport and even friends of people on the plane that had to go to shelters for who knows how long. Thank you from the bottom our our hearts.
Think of this story the next time you say that you don't need a travel insurance policy or that you don't need help from a travel agent. Travel insurance is for the unforeseen and unexpected. They didn't expect a hurricane. And travel agents are advocates for their customers. Do you think that someone at Expedia would have done all that for them?
I didn't make a dime on anything I did that Tuesday. Yes, I love to earn an income, but my first priority is do what's in the best interests for my customers.