Days before the Richmond area felt any direct effects from Hurricane Harvey or incoming rainfall from Hurricane Irma, a Henrico County-based company was fielding calls from thousands of U.S. travelers stranded in hard-hit cities or seeking to cancel trips to Texas and Florida.
As of Monday morning, travel insurer Allianz Worldwide Partners had received more than 2,400 U.S. claims related to Hurricane Harvey and more than 3,200 U.S. claims for Hurricane Irma, said Daniel Durazo, director of communications for Allianz.
These travel insurance claims are for trips that were canceled, interrupted or delayed by the natural disasters.
In addition to claims, the customer service center had received more than 250 calls related to Harvey, more than 1,200 calls to Irma and fewer than 20 related to Hurricane Jose.
“Our customer service associates are answering questions about travel insurance coverage and helping our customers file claims,” Durazo said. “Our travel assistance department is helping our customers find new flights, accommodations and helping to solve other travel-related problems.”
The company employs about 700 people at the headquarters for the Americas region, which includes the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil. The offices are off Mayland Drive in western Henrico.
The company adjusts resources to handle major travel disruptions, including by authorizing overtime and shifting employees from other operations to front-line customer service teams, Durazo said.
He declined to say how much the hurricanes would cost the company in insurance claims. “That’s not the type of information we would typically provide. We are one of the largest financial services company in the world with billions of dollars available to pay insurance claims.”
Trips can be canceled in the case of a hurricane if travel suppliers such as airlines or cruise ships stop their operations or service to destinations, or hotels or other accommodations become uninhabitable.
Canceled flights always are a moving target, Durazo said, noting that Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport both closed this past weekend and plan to stay shuttered at least through Monday. “Atlanta, the world’s busiest airport, will be impacted next,” he said, referring to Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Big airports in Florida remained closed Monday, and flight cancellations were spreading north along the track of Irma — which is now a tropical storm.
American Airlines said it won’t resume flights in Miami until at least Tuesday, revising its initial plans to restart late Monday. Terminal buildings at the Miami airport suffered significant damage, and ceiling tiles at gate areas fell down throughout the airport.
At nearby Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, there were some leaks in terminal roofs and trees were downed in the employee parking lot, but overall damage was minimal.
Nearly 700 flights were canceled Monday in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
In Central Florida, no passenger flights were planned at Orlando International Airport, with more than 300 flights canceled Monday. Along Florida’s Gulf Coast, neither Tampa International Airport nor Southwest Florida International Airport were expected to resume service.
More than 3,900 U.S. flights scheduled for Monday were canceled by late morning — and more than 9,000 since Saturday — according to tracking service FlightAware.
Disruptions have spread beyond Florida. Delta Air Lines canceled 900 flights Monday, including more than a third at its Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson hub due to high winds. American, also citing high winds, canceled 300 flights in Charlotte, N.C..
Irma’s impact in Atlanta could disrupt the travel of thousands who pass through Hartsfield-Jackson. The airport has as many as 2,800 daily departures, and roughly 275,000 passengers each day. The airport also is a major transfer point for travel throughout the southeastern region of the United States, an area already reeling from the impact of travel disrupted by Irma’s impact.
The cost for travel insurance is between 5 percent and 10 percent of non-refundable trip costs, which typically includes flights and other pre-paid expenses, such as hotel stays, rental cars or tours.
Travel insurance provides coverage for trip cancellations and interruptions, travel delays and lost/stolen/delayed baggage as well as medical and dental emergencies that come up while traveling and emergency medical transportation and evacuations.
Customers who don’t need assistance can file travel insurance claims online through the company’s website, which can be accessed from any computing device, including smartphones.
“Most claims are finalized and paid within seven to 10 days of our receipt of all documentation,” Durazo said.
Travelers affected by Irma might want to contact their airlines and hotels before canceling their trips, he said. “Many travel suppliers are waiving change fees to allow rescheduling without penalty.” Customers who change trip dates should alert the company through its website so travel insurances policies correspond accordingly.
The company has set up a hurricane alert page on its website at www.allianztravelinsurance.com/coverage-alerts/coverage-hurricane.htm to provide customers with information about their travel insurance coverage, instructions on how to file a claim, information about emergency travel assistance and access to its TravelSmart mobile app.
The Washington Post and The Associated Press contributed to this article.