Good connections the key to a ski side trip

I've booked a return flight to Europe via Shanghai. I plan to catch up with friends and go skiing in Japan on the way home and I have booked return flights to Sapporo from Shanghai with a different airline, because this is the cheapest option. I have a three-hour stopover, both ways, to change planes and recheck luggage. Is there travel insurance that will cover me if one of the flights is delayed and I miss my connecting flight?

- S. Laughlin, Newcastle.

Any travel insurance policy should compensate you for extra expenses due to disrupted travel plans caused by a missed connection.

If it is necessary for you to recheck your bags in Shanghai on the way to Sapporo, you're right to be concerned because three hours might be cutting it fine. When you arrive in Shanghai, you will have to clear immigration to collect your checked-in bag and then pass through customs, queue at the check-in desk and go through security checks and immigration once again to board your connecting flight. You will probably also need a Chinese visa.

Even though you're using a different airline to travel from Shanghai to Sapporo, it might be possible to check your bags through from Europe to Sapporo. However, this can happen only if the two airlines involved have a baggage transfer agreement and this might not be the case if you're using discount airlines.

If you miss your connecting flight due to the late arrival of your previous flight, you may well have a reason to expect compensation from your insurer. However, you would need to be delayed for a significant period that involves an overnight stay - not merely be inconvenienced for a few hours - and incur additional expenses.

If that happens, you should first approach the carrier responsible for the delay, explain the situation and see if it can arrange accommodation. If not, you will need to stump up payment yourself and reclaim the cost from your insurer but you will be out of pocket for the excess on your insurance policy, which is typically about $100. As far as possible, get evidence of your delayed flight and any airline response to your plight in writing.