What is flight insurance?

Written by Jennifer Simonson / December 13, 2022
Reviewed by Jennifer Lobb
Fact checked by Heidi Gollub

Key points

  • Flight insurance covers the cost of your nonrefundable flight, and sometimes more.
  • You can buy flight insurance through an airline, online travel agency or travel insurance company.
  • You may not need flight insurance if you purchase a ticket that allows for free changes and cancellation, or if you already have coverage through your credit card.

You’re finally ready to pull the trigger and buy airline tickets for the big vacation you’ve been planning. Before you can complete the purchase, you’re prompted to consider purchasing flight insurance for added peace of mind. 

The website copy likely says that flight insurance is “highly recommended” to protect your trip against unexpected circumstances. But what exactly is flight insurance, what does it cover and how necessary is it? 

Inside this article

  1. What is flight insurance?
  2. What flight insurance covers
  3. How much is flight insurance?
  4. How does flight insurance work?
  5. Is flight insurance worth it?
  6. Frequently Asked Questions

What is flight insurance?

Basic flight insurance protects the cost of your flight should the unexpected occur. When purchasing an airline ticket, flight insurance is typically offered as an add-on directly from the airline or from third-party sites such as Expedia or Travelocity. You can also buy flight insurance directly from some travel insurance companies. 

Having flight insurance does not mean you can cancel your trip for any reason and expect a refund. Depending on the details of your policy, you may be able to recoup 100% of your pre-paid, non-refundable flight cost in the following situations:

  • Severe weather or a natural disaster 

  • Equipment failure that causes a long tarmac delay

  • Unexpected flight delays that result in a missed connection

  • A mid-flight emergency that forces you to land at a different airport than originally planned 

  • Death of a family member or traveling companion 

  • Unexpected job loss before your trip

  • Unexpected illness or injury prior to departure

  • You are called for jury duty before your flight 

Read the change and cancellation policies of the airline when considering if you need to buy flight insurance. Southwest Airlines’ consumer-friendly policies already include the ability to change or cancel a flight for any reason up until 10 minutes before the departure time. However, depending on the type of ticket you buy, you may get a flight credit when you cancel, rather than a refund. 

What does flight insurance cover?

Flight insurance typically covers you for unexpected events related to air travel. Policies range from offering straightforward refunds for airline tickets to coverage for lost or damaged luggage. 

Depending on your policy, flight insurance benefits may include:

  • Trip cancellation insurance. If you need to cancel your trip for a reason listed in your policy, you can get reimbursed for all prepaid, nonrefundable flight expenses. 

  • Trip delay insurance. If you are stranded in transit due to a reason in your policy, you can be reimbursed for extra expenses you incur. This coverage usually begins after you have been delayed for a certain period of time, such as six hours, and has a daily maximum, such as $150. 

  • Trip interruption insurance. If you need to cut your trip short for a covered reason, your non-refundable trip costs and any additional transportation expenses—such as a last-minute one-way economy ticket home—could be covered. 

  • Baggage insurance. Some flight insurance plans include reimbursement for lost, stolen or damaged luggage. This is generally secondary insurance, so you would have to file a claim with the airline or your homeowners insurance first. 

If you want more comprehensive coverage, it can pay to shop around before buying the flight insurance offered through the airline’s website. Determine which benefits are important to you and compare policies and prices before buying. 

How much is flight insurance?

The cost of flight insurance varies depending on the plan you select, your total trip cost, your age and the length of your trip. But the cost will be low compared to the cost of the flight. For instance, flight insurance from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection’s Aircare plan might be $26 for a $1,000 trip. 

It’s worth noting, however, that the average cost of travel insurance is $61 for a $1,000 trip. Spending the extra money on a more comprehensive travel insurance plan could get you a great deal more in coverage while you’re traveling, including emergency medical, dental and medical evacuation. 

How does flight insurance work?

When you’re buying an airline ticket you will often see an option to add trip insurance on the checkout page. Each airline uses a different flight insurance provider. For example, United offers a Travel Guard travel insurance plan through AIG Travel while Delta uses Allianz Global Assistance. 

Airlines and third-party travel companies can offer drastically different policies, so it is important to read the fine print before selecting a policy to purchase. 

Like Delta, American Airlines offers comprehensive trip insurance through Allianz Global Assistance. Allianz trip insurance pays if you have to cancel or interrupt your trip due to a reason listed in your policy, such as illness, injury or jury duty. 

Travel insurance from Allianz also includes emergency medical benefits, trip interruption coverage, reimbursement of necessary meals and accommodations if your flight is delayed for more than six hours for a covered reason and reimbursement for lost, damaged or stolen luggage during your trip.

Allegiant on the other hand offers basic flight insurance called Trip Flex. Trip Flex allows you to change your flight or postpone your trip without paying the $75 change fee. You can only make one itinerary modification. The modification can be made up to one hour prior to departure for airline ticket purchases and up to 72 hours prior to departure for air/hotel package purchases. Additional restrictions include holiday travel periods and flight promos or sales.

Is flight insurance worth it?

Flight insurance is not always worth the investment. If your trip includes other nonrefundable bookings, such as hotel stays, car rentals and excursions, you would be better off purchasing a standalone travel insurance policy to cover the entire trip. 

You may also be able to rely on your credit card for coverage. Some credit cards include trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance, lost luggage insurance and trip delay reimbursement, if you pay for the trip using your card. This makes it possible to safeguard your flight without purchasing a separate flight insurance policy. Check your credit card benefits to determine if this coverage is available to you. 

If your flight is the only nonrefundable expense for your upcoming trip and you do not have a credit card that includes trip cancellation insurance, flight insurance may be worth it.

Frequently asked questions

When should I buy flight insurance?

It is best to buy flight insurance the same day you purchase your airline ticket, whether you buy it through the airline or directly from a travel insurance company. This ensures the cost of your ticket is covered and provides a longer coverage window for trip cancellation benefits. 

Can I cancel my flight insurance?
Can I cancel an airline ticket without penalty?

About the Authors

Jennifer Simonson

Jennifer Simonson

Jennifer Simonson covers everything from business to the wine industry to international travel. Outdoor adventure, water parks and all things Texas are by far her favorite beats. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Travel + Leisure, Texas Monthly, Smithsonian Magazine, Fodor's, Lonely Planet, Slate and more. You can follow her on Instagram at @storiestoldwell.

Full bio
Jennifer Lobb

Jennifer Lobb

Jennifer is an experienced insurance and personal finance writer. For nearly a decade, she’s helped consumers make educated decisions about the products that protect their finances, families and homes. 

Prior to joining Sound Dollar, Jennifer served as the deputy editor of insurance at Forbes Advisor and was an insurance staff writer and editor at U.S. News.  She also spent several years covering finance and insurance for various financial media sites, including LendingTree and Investopedia.

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Heidi Gollub

Heidi Gollub

Heidi Gollub is the lead editor of insurance. She was previously the assistant managing editor over insurance for U.S. News & World Report.

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