Does travel insurance cover stupid Instagram influencer stunts?

Myelle Lansat


Myelle Lansat

Myelle Lansat

News Editor

Myelle Lansat is a news editor at Policygenius, where she writes the Easy Money newsletter and covers insurance and personal finance. Previously, she was a personal finance writer at CNBC and Acorns, and a reporter for Business Insider.

Published February 10, 2020 | 2 min read

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An aspiring Instagram influencer made a near $200,000 mistake by falsely claiming he may have had the coronavirus during a four-hour flight, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing.

WestJet Flight 2702 from Toronto to Montego Bay, Jamaica turned around halfway through its flight on Monday after Instagrammer and musical artist James Potok, aka Potok Philippe, stood up and claimed he recently returned from China’s “Hunan province, the capital of the coronavirus” and was feeling sick. The current outbreak of the coronavirus actually began in Wuhan, not Hunan.

Potok was escorted off the plane wearing a mask and gloves and was immediately arrested by police. His stunt occurred as the 12th case of coronavirus was confirmed in the U.S. and the global death toll reached more than 600 people.

Making an emergency landing isn’t an easy decision and can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000. Not to mention the personal travel cost to the 243 people onboard who were flown back to Pearson International Airport in Toronto. Especially if they didn’t have travel insurance.

Does travel insurance cover Instagram dummies?

It depends on the type of travel insurance you get.

“Travel insurance is designed to cover unexpected and unforeseen events,” said Kasara Barto, spokeswoman for Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison site. She says Potok’s stunt is usually not spelled out in travelers insurance but a policy can cover people who were delayed catching a connecting flight or had to change hotel reservations.

“If the plane itself is delayed due to any reason, such as this influencer having an episode and causing a plane to turn around, and their policy says ‘any delay’ — they can be covered,” Barto said.

What’s the difference between airline and travel insurance?

Before purchasing travel insurance, think about the type of trip you're taking and if you need light coverage or an all-encompassing policy.

  • Airline insurance is offered by airlines and covers flight cancellations or interruptions. So if you need to cancel your trip at the last minute, your ticket will be refunded.

  • Travel insurance covers accommodations, medical issues such as an injury, baggage loss, flight delays or cancellations and unforeseen weather. There is a caveat to policies covering unforeseen weather, said Barto. If a storm is named before your trip, for example a hurricane, then it is no longer an “unforeseen” event — it is expected and you lose that coverage.

When you should consider travel insurance

You should consider travel insurance if there’s a specific concern regarding the trip, like weather or health issues, said Barto. If you purchase travel insurance, you can expect to pay anywhere from 7% to 10% of your total trip cost, she added.

You should consider travel insurance if you’re traveling overseas or taking a cruise, said Barto. If you’re traveling within the U.S. and have health insurance, you can safely skip travel insurance. Barto said: “As most travelers already have primary domestic health insurance, there is often no need for added medical coverage.”

Considering your next vacation? Take a look at our travel insurance guide.

Image: Claudio Schwarz Purzlbaum