Does travel insurance apply to companion tickets?

Sep 17, 2019

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

Any time you plan a vacation you hope that things will go smoothly, but from unpredictable weather events to airplane groundings and mechanical issues, it’s important to protect your plans with travel insurance. Thankfully, many of our favorite travel rewards credit cards here at TPG, including the wildly-popular Chase Sapphire Reserve, offer travel insurance as long as you use them to book part or all of your trip. TPG reader Jared wants to know if his travel insurance will cover someone flying with him on a companion certificate as well …

I’m traveling on a Southwest Companion Pass ticket with my wife and we booked our tickets with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If our flight is delayed, will she be eligible for any compensation as my companion?

TPG READER JARED

Earning companion certificates

There are several different pieces to this question, so let’s try to break them down one at a time. First of all, when Jared refers to a travel “companion” he doesn’t just mean a friend or family member flying with him. In this case, he’s talking about the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows you to bring along a designated travel companion for free on paid and award tickets (just pay taxes starting at $5.60 each way).

There are a number of credit cards that also offer annual companion certificates (upon card renewal), including the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card. In all cases, you’ll still have to pay taxes and fees. While these taxes are annoying, they’re actually quite important as we’ll see in a moment.

Are companions covered?

First of all, Jared didn’t mention the cause for his delay, but each travel insurance policy specifies what types of delays are and aren’t covered. However, we’ll assume his delay was for a covered reason and move on. Next up is the question of eligible companions. The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s travel insurance policy applies to the primary cardholder, their spouse or domestic partner, and dependent children under the age of 22. In this case Jared’s wife would be an eligible party, but if you designated other friends or family members as your companion they likely would not be.

Now for the most important piece. Reading the terms and conditions of Chase’s travel insurance policy, we see that “To be eligible for this coverage, you need to purchase either a portion or the entire cost of your Common Carrier fare using your Account.” So in reality you can think of those pesky $5.60 taxes on Southwest companion award tickets as being an incredibly cheap premium you pay for travel insurance. If the ticket were truly free with no taxes, your Sapphire Reserve travel protections would not apply. I spoke to a Chase benefits administrator on the phone who confirmed that, in this sense, a companion fare is much like an award ticket. Even though you aren’t paying the full fare with your Sapphire, the taxes you pay make your trip eligible for insurance coverage. It’s also worth mentioning that Chase has some of the most generous travel protections, and even the most generous terms within those policies. Many other card issuers require you to pay for the entire fare in order to receive coverage, meaning that award tickets and companion certificates would be excluded.

Bottom line

Jared can rest easy that if his Companion Pass flight is delayed for eligible reasons, his wife will receive the benefits of his Sapphire Reserve travel insurance. Much like an award ticket, even though he never “bought” a ticket for her, the taxes he paid on his Sapphire Reserve provide coverage for her trip.

Thanks for the question, Jared, 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 Robert Alexander/Getty Images

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