“Reader Questions” are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.
No matter where you start your trip, getting to the Maldives requires stringing together a few different modes of transportation. After your flight lands in Male (MLE), you’ll need to take either a seaplane or speedboat to reach your final destination, depending on which hotel you’ve booked. TPG reader Jae wants to know if these hotel transfers are covered by his credit card’s travel insurance …
If I book a hotel in the Maldives with my Chase Sapphire Reserve, will the travel insurance cover my seaplane/speedboat transfer even though I’m not booking it myself (the hotel books it and then charges me)?TPG READER JAE
First of all, Jae has the right idea using a Chase Sapphire Reserve here, as it offers one of the most comprehensive travel insurance packages of any rewards credit card. The ultimate answer to this question will depend on a lot of variables, but there’s one important thing to keep in mind: In order to submit a travel insurance claim with Chase, you’ll need a bill or statement showing that you paid for the transfer from Male.
It doesn’t matter that the hotel booked it and charged you, but you will need an itemized receipt showing the amount you paid for the transfer. When I stayed at the St. Regis Maldives, the cost of the seaplane transfer was included as a line item on my final bill, so make sure to hold on to that document. Without the hotel bill and corresponding credit card statement, even if your circumstances are covered by insurance, you’ll have a lot of trouble submitting a claim.
Seaplane vs. Speedboat
Depending on how far your hotel is from Male, you might be transferred in a seaplane or a speedboat. Seaplane rides are almost always operated by Trans Maldivian Airways, while speedboats are often private transfers operated by the hotels. This is important because credit card travel protection typically only applies to travel operated by a “common carrier” (a licensed organization operating regularly scheduled transportation). Trans Maldivian Airways, the world’s largest seaplane operator, should absolutely meet this definition.
If your hotel uses speedboat transfers instead, it might get trickier. You may want to reach out to the property before you book to ask who operates the speedboats so you can determine if the company is (or is not) a common carrier. When in doubt, you can always call Chase and speak to a benefits administrator for more clarification, though a phone call can’t guarantee that you’d be covered.
Trip Delay vs. Trip Cancellation Insurance
The list of Sapphire Reserve protections stretches on for a long time, but there are two that are likely to be relevant here: Trip Delay Reimbursement and Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption Insurance.
Many of the flights operated by Trans Maldivian Airways on behalf of nearby hotels aren’t regularly scheduled flights — the hotel organizes them on a case-by-case basis based on the number of guests they have arriving and departing. We weren’t told of our seaplane departure time until we landed in Male and were never given any documentation listing a scheduled departure time. As such, proving a trip delay case might be very difficult. If you find yourself delayed on Male for more than six hours after your scheduled departure (the time at which trip delay coverage on the Sapphire Reserve kicks in), and you incur expenses for which you’d like to seek reimbursement, you should work with your hotel as soon as possible to provide documentation of the delay.
The same applies for trip cancellation/interruption insurance, and you’ll need to coordinate with your hotel and the transfer-operator to produce the necessary documentation. I would strongly suggest digging through the fine print of your insurance benefits to see a list of what documents you might be asked to submit with your claim.
There is one other important exclusion that applies to trip interruption coverage: it only applies to prepaid travel arrangements. Here’s how Chase defines reimbursable expenses under this benefit:
“The forfeited, non-refundable pre-paid land, air and/or sea transportation arrangements that were missed.”
This means if your stay in the Maldives was booked using hotel points or a cash rate that wasn’t prepaid, you likely won’t be covered.
For many people, the Maldives is a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list trip. It would be very unfortunate to get all the way to Male only to find out that extreme circumstances are going to stop (or delay) you from officially starting your vacation. Before a trip like this, you should study the terms and conditions of your insurance benefits, especially in terms of what documents are needed to file a claim. Trans Maldivian Airways is a unique case in that it meets Chase’s definition of a common carrier, but most passengers aren’t provided written information about their flights.
Featured photo by EyesWideOpen/Getty Images.