Couple has travel insurance nightmare

Kelowna pair planned nice trip but medical emergency derails love from travel company

Alicia Norton in hospital after several surgeries. The Kelowna woman was hoping to find some relief from her travel company

A Kelowna couple is warning others of the risk of not purchasing travel cancellation insurance.

Three days after Alicia Norton and Jason Loeffler purchased a Sunwing vacation package, valued at $3,000 on Jan. 4, Norton fell seriously ill.

After three surgeries to remove Norton’s gallbladder, contend with a damaged pancreas, and dealing with a bile leak due to the gallbladder’s removal, Norton said it’s unlikely the pair will be travelling anytime soon.

“They (Sunwing) offered we could pay $250 each to change the name on our tickets and it would be our responsibility to sell the tickets,” she said.

Travel cancellation insurance wasn’t offered to the couple because the vacation package was purchased on short notice, said Loeffler.

Travel agent Kelly Scott of Flight Centre, said the couple’s story is one she’s heard before.

Scott stands by purchasing medical and cancellation insurance.

“You never know what will happen between now and your travel time,” she said.

The departure date of their vacation is set for Jan. 30, but Norton said she is still dealing with bandages and gauze.

Sunwing replied to the Capital News in an emailed statement:

“We can confirm that the passenger in question booked her trip with a travel agency and when she called Sunwing to advise of her medical emergency she was advised that she would need to speak to her travel agent directly about her options,” Sunwing stated.

“At the point she contacted us, it was approximately one week before departure and per our terms and conditions, the trip is 100 per cent non-refundable and non-changeable.

“We strongly recommend to all of our customers when booking travel to purchase the Sunwing Worry-Free Cancellation Waiver which provides protection against unexpected medical emergencies and allows cancellation coverage for any reason, up to three hours prior to departure.

Norton says the couple believed insurance wasn’t available due to the last minute booking but is now warning others to be vigilant in making sure to ask about purchasing insurance.

“Make sure to buy (insurance) and don’t wait until the last minute (to plan a trip,)” she said, noting they may still be able make the trip depending on her health.