Which Airlines Do I Need Travel Insurance to Survive?

The carriers that are arriving late, losing luggage, and bumping fliers

Flying one of the worst air carriers in the United States this year? You MAY want to purchase travel insurance.
••• Scott Olson/Getty Images News

Every year, The Wall Street Journal publishes their annual airline report card, looking back at the year in commercial aviation. In 2015, eight national American carriers were graded on their performance across a number of categories, including on-time performance, baggage delay, and passenger complaints. Although the report card was meant to celebrate America's best airlines, it also points out some of America's worst airlines as well.

 

Before flying with any American airline, it may be worthwhile to consider their track record, and whether or not you should buy travel insurance prior to boarding. Prior to boarding, be sure to know your travel insurance limits for these common air carriers. .

United Airlines: Cancelled Flights

According to data collected by The Wall Street Journal, United Airlines came at the bottom of the list for a number of categories, including delayed and cancelled flights, making them one of the most unreliable airlines in the United States. The newspaper grouped together flights from both mainline United flights and regional flights, explaining the drop in on-time performance. 

Travelers who are booking flights with United in should consider purchasing travel insurance when booking a trip, and pay close attention to the trip delay benefits. Trip delay benefits may reimburse travelers for any expenses that result from a cancelled flight, with benefits coming into effect in as few as six hours.

Expenses can include hotel rooms, toiletries needed to get through an extra night, and even extra meals.

Southwest Airlines: Baggage Loss

The U.S. Department of Transportation lists the airlines that are most likely to lose travelers’ luggage on a trip during a monthly and yearly basis. Leading the list were regional air carriers that operate a combination of co-branded flights for mainline air carriers.

However, among the major American air carriers, Southwest Airlines lead the list at 4.3 mishandled bags per every 1,000 passengers. Over the course of a year, that adds up to a lot of luggage that doesn’t end up at the same destination as their owners.

Travelers who are flying with Southwest Airlines should consider packing a travel insurance policy with baggage loss benefits. Baggage loss and baggage delay benefits can cover travelers in case travelers need to purchase interim items as they wait for their luggage, or lose their luggage entirely as they travel.

American Airlines: Trip Delay

Every time an airline merges, certain operational problems are bound to take place. As US Airways and American Airlines merged, the “New American” rated the lowest of the airlines for tarmac delays of two hours or more, making them one of the most frustrating airlines to fly. In addition to a major inconvenience for travelers, being stuck on the tarmac can create bigger problems than missed connections.

Under the Passenger Bill of Rights, airlines must provide passengers with food and water after a two-hour tarmac delay, and must allow the opportunity to leave the plane (where safety allows) after three hours.

If an airline does not provide these basic conveniences, they can be fined and otherwise penalized by the Department of Transportation. Travelers who have experienced an abnormal tarmac delay can file a complaint against the airline with the Consumer Protection Division.

Frontier Airlines: Involuntary Boarding Denials

While United Airlines leads the report for involuntary boarding denials, low cost carrier Frontier Airlines scored second worst. Frontier also scored last for FAA complaints by passengers who had a poor experience with the airline.

Travelers who are involuntarily bumped from their flights are entitled to much more than just booking on the next flight out. Those travelers who cannot be accommodated by their airline may be entitled to a cash payment, depending on how long their involuntary delay lasts.

While this can help travelers absorb some of the costs of their travel, a travel insurance plan can help cover the rest.

Experiencing problems while flying across the United States is a natural part of modern commercial aviation. But understanding which airlines have the most problems can help you make the best travel decisions. By preparing for the worst inconveniences while flying these airlines, travelers can make sure they are covered - no matter what goes wrong along the way.