How to get travel insurance that covers potential strikes

Britain’s peak travel season is being hit by a wave of strikes, which is causing thousands to worry about the state of their summer holidays and whether it’ll be cancelled.

Cancellations of any kind could lead to expensive consequences for holidaymakers, especially for those without the protection of comprehensive travel insurance.

But, simply having travel insurance may not be enough: around one in 20 policies say that won’t cover jetsetters for missed or delayed flights, with as many as 50 per cent stating that they don’t protect against cancellations due to strikes.

British Airways has stopped 2.8m passengers from reaching their holiday destination after cancelling 17,600 flights in the last six months, with more cancellations expected in July

British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair are all expected to be hit with strike action throughout July, adding to the thousands of flights that were cancelled over the Easter holidays.

Only three in five holidaymakers said they were planning to buy travel insurance before they set off abroad, potentially leaving thousands out of pocket if their flight is cancelled.

It is vital to book good quality travel cover as soon as you book your trip, as we explain below. 

Does my travel insurance cover strike action? 

Ceri McMillan, travel expert at GoCompare, says that travel insurance doesn’t automatically cover strikes. 

She said: ‘If your flight is delayed or cancelled due to strike action, it is likely that your airline will compensate you as the flights are effectively cancelled by the airline.’

However, there is then the potential outlay for accommodation and extras, such as car hire, transfers and excursions, which will not fall under that umbrella if booked outside of a package deal. 

Travel tips: pay by credit card and check the small print 

Take out comprehensive travel insurance: Check the policy small print to ensure it covers the cost of all travel failures. Make sure the cover includes ‘scheduled airline failure insurance’. You may have to pay extra for this as a bolt-on – but it is money well spent. 

Pay for your travel with a credit card: It means you may be able to claim under ‘section 75’ of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 if an airline or holiday company goes bust – or the travel trip paid for using this card is unexpectedly cancelled.

Know your rights: Do not allow airlines to fob you off with ‘extraordinary circumstances’ excuses. The Civil Aviation Authority has full details of when and how to claim. If your airline rejects a claim you may take the case to AviationADR. 

New research from Which? suggests that even if you have insurance you may not be covered for strike action, as only 60 per cent of policies reportedly offered reimbursement for travellers who’s trip was cancelled. 

It may seem like bad news that travel insurance doesn’t automatically cover you in case of an industrial strike, but the good news is that you may not need to rely on it if your flight is cancelled. 

Jenny Ross, Which? money editor, said that if your flight is cancelled due to strike action, your airline has a legal responsibility to reroute you on any reasonable route – even if that means with another, rival airline, or refund you.

She added: ‘In the event that your airline is unable to re-route you and you choose to rebook flights yourself, you should travel in the same cabin class and claim for reimbursement.  

‘Depending on how far you are flying, if your flight is delayed more than two hours your airline should give you two free calls, faxes or emails, free meals and refreshments appropriate to the length of the delay, and free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required.

‘That means that if you are stuck abroad due to a flight cancellation, your airline must pay for your accommodation, even if that is because of a strike. In the first instance you should contact your airline to make the booking on your behalf. 

‘If you can’t reach them, make a booking yourself, and keep proof of payment for this and any other reasonable expense such as transport, to be claimed back via the airline.’

Chaos at Manchester Airport as hundreds of flights are cancelled : but you can claim compensation for cancelled flights that ruin your travel plans and holidays

Chaos at Manchester Airport as hundreds of flights are cancelled : but you can claim compensation for cancelled flights that ruin your travel plans and holidays

McMillan added that if you are worried about industrial action affecting your trip, the best thing to do in the first instance is check with your travel agent, tour operator or airline.

‘They should have all the information on their websites,’ she said. ‘Strike action can change on a daily basis so they will have the most up to date information and will be your first port of call for refunds or alternative flights and accommodation.’

Would I be entitled to compensation? 

Another piece of good news, is that you are also entitled to the same compensation if you flight is cancelled, but only if its cancelled within two weeks of departure.

Ross said: ‘Under UK and EU Law, you are only entitled to compensation from your airline if you hear from them less than 14 days’ from the date you’re due to fly that your flight is cancelled.’

> Read our guide: Everything you need to know about travel insurance 

McMillan added: ‘If the strike is announced more than two weeks before your holiday and the airline can offer you an alternative flight that isn’t too different to your original plans, you won’t be entitled to any compensation. 

‘Equally, if you decide not to travel because you are concerned by strikes, you won’t be covered in this instance either.’

Holidaymakers have been stuck in airports for hours, as airlines scramble to find replacement flights after strikes, COVID, and staff shortages caused thousands of flights to be cut

Holidaymakers have been stuck in airports for hours, as airlines scramble to find replacement flights after strikes, COVID, and staff shortages caused thousands of flights to be cut

What if the flight for my package holiday is cancelled? 

If you have booked a package holiday, you should be covered entirely if strike action causes your flight to be cancelled, and you should speak to your tour operator to discuss your options. 

McMillian said: ‘If you’ve booked a package holiday with an official tour operator, you are also protected by ATOL, a Government-backed financial protection scheme that applies to most air package holidays sold in the UK. 

‘This also means you are covered if you need to be repatriated or if you need alternative accommodation if this happens while you’re abroad. 

‘The law says your holiday must be protected if you book a holiday with a single travel firm that includes: flights and accommodation (including a cruise), or flights and car hire, or flights, accommodation and car hire.’

Travel insurance can cover you for anything from lost luggage to cancelled flights, even missed connections in case of strike action, so you can relax knowing you are protected

Travel insurance can cover you for anything from lost luggage to cancelled flights, even missed connections in case of strike action, so you can relax knowing you are protected

What if I miss my connecting flight due to strikes? 

If you have to get a connecting flight to your destination, you may find you are left high and dry if the airline cancels the initial flight from the UK. 

If you are unable to make the connecting flight, you may have to pay for another flight and potentially food and accommodation costs while you wait for it. 

If both fights are with the same airline, you may be able to get compensation, but if it is with a different airline, you may be left to foot the bill, as over a quarter of annual travel insurance policies offer no cover in these circumstances.

It’s vital you check that your travel insurance covers you in cased of missed flights, or cancellations if you are planning a trip with a connecting flight. 

What should I look for when buying insurance?  

McMillan suggests looking out for disruption cover when comparing insurance, as this will typically tell you what is covered. 

She said: ‘Travel insurance can cover you for eventualities such as cancellations or delays, and is included under disruption cover, which covers you if your holiday is unexpectedly cut short or if anything happens to your personal belongings. 

‘However, this isn’t included as standard on all travel insurance policies so you’ll need to check if you have this cover on your policy – if not, you can often add this as an optional extra.’

Ross added that you should look out for the type of medical care your insurance covers too, as well as expenses for lost valuables or illness.

How to find travel insurance 

The simplest way to look for travel insurance is to use a comparison site.

Results will similar across most comparison sites but some may have special deals, so it could be worth using more than one. 

If you have previous serious medical issues consider a specialist insurer or broker.

This is Money has partnered with Compare the Market to help you find great travel insurance. You can compare prices and cover at the link below.

> Travel insurance: Check policies with Compare the Market

She said: ‘When buying travel insurance, each person’s needs will be different.

‘As a general rule Which? recommends a minimum of £5million in emergency medical cover, £2000 or the value of your trip for cancellations, £1million personal liability cover and £1,500 or the value of your personal belongings and money. 

‘With Covid still likely to cause disruption, it is advisable to take out a policy which provides cover in the event you need to cancel your trip due to testing positive or self-isolating, and emergency medical cover while abroad.’

But McMillan said not to worry too much about finding Covid cover: ‘most travel insurance policies also now have a level of cover for Covid-19 which will pay for emergency care and repatriation.’

Can I buy my travel insurance now to protect against strike action? 

Ideally, you should look to get your travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday to ensure you are covered from the get-go.  

But, you should know that if you book travel insurance after news of the strikes affecting your flights, you could invalidate your insurance.

McMillan said: ‘It’s also worth noting that if you booked your holiday and bought your insurance policy before the strikes were announced, you may be able to claim on your insurance. 

‘But if you bought the policy after the strikes were announced, you won’t be covered. 

‘It’s so important that you read your policy, so you know what you’re covered for and likewise, buy your policy as soon as you book your holiday as you are more likely to be covered the earlier you bought it.’