The Clyson family trip to Antigua last March was a redo of sorts. They had already canceled his one trip to Mexico due to COVID-19 concerns and restrictions.
With two teenagers in tow, Rob and Kathleen Ann Clyson of Kitchener, Ontario, knew this might be the last time they could get the whole family on a plane at the same time.
Kathleen Anne says their first family vacation in three years was exactly what they wanted.
“The resort was beautiful. The beach was beautiful. It was a lovely, relaxing family time,” she told Go Public.
That is, until Day 5, when, along with all other passengers on the plane, they had to undergo a rapid COVID test to be allowed to return home.
They all passed except Rob.
His symptoms were mild, but family vacations were interrupted.
The rest of the family had to stay at the resort away from other guests, while Rob had to isolate himself in his room and missed his flight home.
It cost him US$1,050 to put him in a hotel room in Antigua for three nights, plus 627.60 Cdn for another return flight.
Fortunately, Kathleen Ann figured she had enough travel insurance.
In addition to the COVID emergency insurance included in Sunwing’s vacation package, she also paid for travel cancellation and interruption coverage. All policies were in Manulife.
“We booked just for peace of mind, which meant that, as far as I could tell, there was no other insurance to protect us,” she said.
Clysons’ travel agent had called Sunwing before the family left to confirm that the COVID package covered isolation costs.
The agent says she was sure of it.
Kathleen Anne recalls getting more assurance when she opened the claim.
“I called the people at Manulife and Sunwing and they said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll make sure he’s well taken care of. Don’t worry about anything.'” We packed everything and left Rob with what he needed,” she said.
Clysons had hoped for two days of vacation derailed by Rob’s COVID test, as well as interruption insurance where his hotel stay and flights would be covered by COVID insurance.
She thought the worst was leaving her husband in his hotel room feeling bad weather.
“It was terrible. It’s unknown,” she said.
We did everything we thought was right. we planned it.— Kathleen Ann Clyson
However, the allegations were denied because Rob did not need or seek “treatment,” according to both Manulife and his travel agent.
In other words, Rob didn’t get sick enough to go to the hospital.
But that denial appears to directly contradict Manulife’s COVID-19 policy bylaws, which state that “treatment” includes “prescription drugs, investigative tests, and surgery.”
Scott Stanley, a personal injury attorney and insurance expert in Vancouver, called Manulife’s refusal a “bad denial.”
He says coverage is clear. “This is one of those rare instances where an insurance policy is actually very easy to read and understand, and yet we deny it,” he said.
Stanley’s opinion is that the refusal was a breach of contract.
“It’s clear that this is a claim that fits in the four corners of the policy. It should be paid and covered, and it doesn’t really depend on the extent of the person’s illness.”
After Go Public got involved, Manulife changed course. Clysons was reimbursed 627 Cdn for Rob’s return flight and 450 Cdn for his three night stay in Antigua, totaling 1,077 Cdn.
They received no compensation for the interruption of the last two days of their vacation.
Stanley says he regularly encounters legitimate claims that are dismissed but not pursued legally.
Manulife did not consent to be interviewed for this article. It also did not respond to subsequent emailed questions about why the Crysons were denied in the first place.
In a written statement to Go Public, Sunwing said the Clysons followed suit when asked to pursue the matter with Manulife. He also said he no longer offers that particular COVID coverage.
Clysons said he was somewhat satisfied with some of the costs being reimbursed. But Kathleen Ann says she still wonders how she could have done more differently.
“It’s not that I didn’t have insurance and I didn’t think I should have, but I did everything I thought was right. I made a plan,” she said.
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