Does My Credit Card Cover Cancellations Due to War or Military Action?

Mar 7, 2019

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“Reader Questions” are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.

After a tense couple of days that saw Pakistan shut down its airspace during an escalating conflict with India, the situation has slowly improved, and Pakistani airspace is once again open to commercial flights. Unfortunately, many people who had travel plans last week saw their flights cancelled or diverted, and TPG reader Hasham wants to know if his credit card’s travel insurance policy would cover him for an upcoming trip to the region.

I have a flight booked from the US to Pakistan in a few weeks. Do airlines cancel tickets and provide refunds if they can’t fly to a country due to war or war-like situations like what’s going on between India and Pakistan? What about travel insurance?

TPG READER HASHAM

Let’s start with the easiest part of Hasham’s question: whether travel insurance would cover him in the event of a cancellation. While he didn’t specify which card he used to book, let’s assume he picked a card with a comprehensive travel insurance policy like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or The Platinum Card® from American Express. While the Sapphire Reserve is widely considered to be the best card for travel insurance, Chase explicitly identifies both declared and undeclared wars as events that are not covered.

The Amex Platinum might be a better choice for booking flights due to its 5x bonus category on airfare purchased directly with the airline. However, it doesn’t provide any coverage for trip delays or cancellations.

As far as third-party travel insurance goes, there’s no way to know for sure, as different policies contain different provisions for what is (and is not) covered. If you’ve purchased additional travel insurance, you’d need to read the fine print to see if wars would be considered a covered event.

The first part of Hasham’s question is a little tougher to answer, as it varies heavily case by case. Military engagement between two countries (or non-state actors) can take a number of different forms, and not all of them warrant the closure of airspace and the cancellation of flights. In this case, the conflict between India and Pakistan included a number of military aircraft being shot down, so it was easy to err on the side of caution and keep commercial aircraft away from this area.

As another example, despite the political unrest and violence in Venezuela, American Airlines is still operating commercial flights from Miami to Caracas, even after US diplomats were ordered to leave the country (a demand that has since been retracted). If the airline were to cancel the flight you could expect some form of refund, either in the form of cash or a travel voucher to use towards a future trip, but it’s impossible to predict how any airline might choose to handle a given conflict situation.

If a carrier is unable to get you to your destination in a timely manner for any reason, it should make every effort to reroute you. If your flight is ultimately cancelled and the airline is unable to accommodate you, you should be entitled to a refund, as you didn’t receive the transportation for which you paid. However, in an ever-evolving situation like tensions between two countries, there’s no way to definitively know how an airline would handle it in advance.

Bottom Line

India and Pakistan have (thankfully) been able to de-escalate the recent conflict without progressing to an all-out war. While commercial flights have resumed to and over the affected areas, there’s no way to know whether this will hold. Hopefully Hasham’s flights will remain unaffected, but if they are, the carrier should do what it can to accommodate him.

This incident serves as an important reminder: In the event of war, military engagement or terrorist attacks, don’t expect your credit card’s travel insurance to cover you if your flights are cancelled or delayed. If you’re traveling to an area that’s especially prone to violence or instability, this might be a good time to consider buying supplementary insurance to specifically address these possibilities, though again, you’d want to read the policy carefully to ensure you’re covered.

Thanks for the question, Hasham, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured photo by Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

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