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Stranded without a passport

Ben and Erin were travelling from Ireland to Vancouver, via Frankfurt.  Ben and Erin were at Frankfurt airport, about to catch their connecting flight to Vancouver, when Ben discovered he had left his passport on the plane that had brought them from Ireland to Frankfurt.  Airline staff would not let Ben retrieve his passport from the plane.

Erin travelled on to Vancouver, but Ben was stuck in Frankfurt.

Costs incurred while trying to get a replacement passport

While Ben was trying to sort out documentation to allow him to travel on to Vancouver, his leather jacket was stolen.  Ben also needed to buy a German sim card for his phone so he could call the New Zealand embassy in Germany and the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs in London.  While Ben waited for his New Zealand passport, he was issued with a temporary German passport to allow him to leave the airport and stay in a hotel.

The following day Ben received his replacement New Zealand passport, and was booked on another flight leaving Germany the next day.  Unfortunately, Ben missed the flight because of long queues at the airport.  Ben finally left Germany three days after he intended to.

Ben’s claim

Ben submitted an insurance claim for:

  • NZD374.90 – emergency replacement New Zealand passport
  • NZD38.60 – temporary German passport
  • his leather jacket
  • €438.90 – hotel accommodation in Germany
  • €10 – taxi fare from the Frankfurt airport to the hotel
  • €205 – the reissued airline ticket
  • €15 – the German sim card.

Claim partially accepted

Ben’s insurer accepted his claim for the replacement New Zealand passport and the temporary German passport, less the NZD100 excess.  After some correspondence, the insurer also accepted the claim for the stolen leather jacket.

The insurer declined the claim for the hotel accommodation, the taxi fare, the reissued airline ticket and the German sim card on the basis that these items were not covered by the policy.  The insurer explained the policy covered lost travel documents and lost personal items, but only covered costs relating to changes to travel plans if the flight was:

  • delayed
  • cancelled or
  • overbooked.

Ben’s view

Ben had bought his airline tickets with his credit card, because he wanted to take advantage of the premium travel insurance.  Ben had read the policy, and was satisfied it would meet his needs, particularly with respect to travel inconvenience cover.  Ben could not understand why the insurer accepted some aspects of his claim and not others.  The inability to board the Frankfurt to Vancouver flight flowed from the loss of his passport, which was covered by the policy.


We explained to Ben that the policy did not cover all his loss.  While the events in Frankfurt were completely unexpected and unintended, this did not automatically mean all Ben’s loss was covered by the policy.  Every insurance policy is different.  Insurers set out in their policy wording the risks that they are prepared to cover, and those they are not prepared to cover. 

In this instance, the insurer was prepared to cover Ben’s lost jacket and the lost passport, but the policy did not cover the expenses flowing from the lost passport.

Although the policy did provide travel inconvenience cover, if Ben’s flight had been delayed, cancelled or overbooked, none of these circumstances applied to Ben.


Ben agreed to withdraw his complaint about the insurer and said he intended taking further action against the airline on the basis that its staff could have allowed him to retrieve his passport from the plane avoiding the problem entirely.

Our insight

People purchase travel insurance to cover the unexpected.  However not all unexpected events will be covered by travel insurance.  While it is extremely difficult to know what cover will be needed in advance, it is still worthwhile comparing a number of policies to check the extent of cover and choose a policy that best meets your needs.