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Does travel insurance cover cancelled flights?

Flight cancellations and delays can cause havoc with your holiday plans, but if something goes wrong, can you get your money back?

Find out if you’re entitled to compensation from the airline for a cancelled flight and when you may be able to claim on your travel insurance.

Flight cancellations and delays can cause havoc with your holiday plans, but if something goes wrong, can you get your money back?

Find out if you’re entitled to compensation from the airline for a cancelled flight and when you may be able to claim on your travel insurance.

Written by
Rebecca Goodman
Insurance expert
Last Updated
8 min read
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Can I get flight cancellation insurance?

Cancellation protection for flights is typically included with standard travel insurance, but if it’s not enough for your needs, you can buy dedicated cancellation insurance as an add-on or as a standalone policy. Some premium travel insurance policies also offer a higher level of cancellation cover, so it might be worth comparing to see which offers better value.

The types of flight cancellations covered can vary between different policies, so always check the terms and conditions before buying.

Am I covered if I choose to cancel a flight myself?

Your travel insurance policy can cover costs if you need to cancel your flight. However, this is usually under specific circumstances, such as:

  • Unforeseen illness, injury or medical emergencies suffered by you or by a close relative, by your intended travelling companion or by the person you were going to stay with when you were away.
  • If you must attend a court of law as a witness or on jury service.
  • If you’re made redundant from your job.
  • If you or your travelling companion is a member of the armed forces, police, fire, nursing, or ambulance services or a government employee who can no longer travel because authorised leave has been cancelled.
  • If the police ask you to remain at home or return from your holiday because of damage to your home caused by fire, explosion, flood or theft.

If you’ve just decided not to travel, or if you’ve been dismissed or resigned from your job and can’t afford your holiday anymore, you’re unlikely to be able to use your travel insurance to claim back flight costs.

Am I covered against cancelled or delayed flights out of my control?

It’s often a bit of a guessing game to find out who’s responsible for paying you if you can’t make your flight in this circumstance but your insurance provider is usually the best person to speak to first, and they can advise you on how to go about getting your money back.

If your flight is cancelled because of a natural disaster, you won’t usually be able to get compensation directly from the airline as it wasn’t their fault. In this case, you could claim for the flight's cancellation through your travel insurance.

Travel insurance that covers flight cancellations may allow you to reclaim all your costs if:

  • Your flight is delayed more than 24 hours, or
  • Your flight is cancelled, and the airline doesn’t rebook you on an alternative flight within 24 hours.

What does travel insurance cover?

Different travel insurance policies will cover different things, but here’s an idea of what you can expect to be covered and the common exclusions. As insurance is designed to cover things you can’t predict, such as unexpected medical treatment, not every scenario will be included.

Common inclusions (unforeseen circumstances):

  • Natural disasters
  • Injury or illness (these may vary)
  • Emergency medical treatment
  • Medical expenses (this may also vary)
  • Travel destination becomes unsafe
  • Bereavement
  • Flood, fire or burglary at your home shortly before your departure date
  • Redundancy
  • Jury duty

Common exclusions (foreseen circumstances):

  • Undeclared medical conditions
  • Known illness of a close relative (bereavement wouldn’t be included in this instance)
  • Injury, illness or medical treatment related to alcohol or drugs
  • Organised strike action

As always, make sure you check this with your travel insurance provider before you take out a policy and prepare to travel to avoid a nasty surprise. All it takes is a quick scan of the small print or a call to a provider.

It’s never a fun job, but making sure you have the right cover could save you a big bill and a lot of stress. Especially if you require specialist cover.

How can I get flight cancellation cover?

Cancellation cover is a common inclusion with most standard travel insurance policies, but you can take it out separately if it doesn’t offer enough cover. Alternatively, if you only want cancellation cover to protect you against cancelled flights rather than baggage protection, you can get it for that.

As always, it’s all about the small print, so double and triple-check what you’re covered for before you buy insurance. It’s always worth weighing up all the costs – an insurance policy providing higher levels of cover will probably be more expensive, but it’ll also provide peace of mind.

What are my rights if my flight is cancelled?

If your flight is cancelled or significantly delayed, then your airline may be obliged to offer compensation. But this depends on whether the flight is covered by UK compensation rules, as well as the cause of the cancellation.

Depending on the circumstances of the cancellation, you may be able to get your money back directly from the airline or by claiming on your travel insurance policy. Check your policy wording for details on whether you’re covered.

How can I get compensation if my flight is cancelled?

If your flight is cancelled or seriously delayed, your airline may compensate you. To find out the airline’s specific procedure for making a claim, check its website or give them a call.

You should be able to claim a full refund or compensation if your flight was:

  • Departing from a UK airport on any airline
  • Arriving at a UK airport on an EU or UK airline
  • Arriving at an airport in the EU on a UK airline.

The amount you could get in compensation can vary, depending on the extent of the disruption you suffered.

It’s also worth checking what’s covered by the travel cancellation part of your travel insurance. A travel insurance claim could help cover the cost of your holiday, for hire car, to cancel a connecting flight or to cover a hotel room you pre-booked. These costs can really add up, so it’s well worth finding out what parts of a holiday are covered by your insurance before you set off. 

How long do you have to be delayed on a flight to get compensation?

What you’re entitled to will depend on how long you’ve been delayed for and whether your flight is covered by UK compensation rules. To receive compensation, the delay must be caused by something deemed to be within the airline’s control, such as staffing problems. Bad weather or a strike by airport staff would be deemed as outside the airline’s control (provided it’s not the airline’s staff who are striking).

If your flight’s delayed by long enough, then the airline has to provide you with vouchers for food and drink. They’ll also need to ensure you have the ability to make phone calls or send emails. The length of delay depends on the distance of the flight and the countries it’s flying between.

If your flight arrives at its destination more than three hours late, you’re entitled to financial compensation. What you’ll get will depend on the distance of the flight, the length of the delay and where you’re flying between. You could be entitled to up to €600 (approximately £520) per passenger, except if the passenger travelled for free.

If your flight arrives more than five hours late, the airline must give you a refund if you decide not to take the flight. This includes onward flights and return flights, if they're part of the same journey.

If you’re delayed overnight, you’re entitled to accommodation, even if you decide not to take the flight. Airlines will reimburse you for ‘reasonable’ expenses, such as getting a taxi to the hotel.

When to claim from the airline

If the airline cancels the flight for say, being short-staffed, it has an obligation to offer you an alternative flight or a full refund. If you decide to rearrange your flight, the airline should work with you to find suitable dates and will then simply transfer your booking. Your airline may offer you a voucher/credit for the cost of your flight, but you’re under no obligation to accept this and are well within your rights to demand a full cash refund.

When to claim on your travel insurance

If the airline is forced to cancel the flight due to circumstances outside of their control, then you might not be entitled to compensation from the airline. If this is the case, you should then look to make a claim on your travel insurance policy.

Did you know?

If you bought your airline tickets with a credit card, your insurance provider might ask you to claim under Section 75 before making an insurance claim. As you won’t have to pay an excess with a Section 75 claim, you may find you get more of your money back this way, although this is not guaranteed.

Does travel insurance cover accommodation if my flight is cancelled?

If you have cancellation cover as part of your travel insurance policy, you should be covered with a full refund for both your flight and accommodation.

If you booked your flight and accommodation separately, the airline won’t be responsible for your hotel booking, which means you’d need to make a travel insurance claim separately.

If you booked your flight as part of a package, then your tour operator should offer compensation or an alternative booking for both your flight and hotel.

If your holiday isn’t a package deal, insurance plays a bigger role as it can cover every leg of the journey, from the flight to your accommodation and any pre-planned trips you’ve paid for.

Frequently asked questions

Will travel insurance cover flight cancellation because of an airline strike?

It depends on your travel insurance provider. Some policies specifically exclude cover for airline strikes, so check the terms and conditions before buying.

Even if you’re covered, you might only be able to claim through your flight travel insurance if the strike wasn’t planned when you took out your policy. You won’t be covered if you buy your travel insurance after a strike has been announced.

How much flight cancellation cover will I have on my travel insurance policy?

The amount of holiday cancellation cover you’ll be offered varies between insurance providers and policies. When you get a quote with Compare the Market, you can compare cancellation cover limits up to £7,500.

Why do I need travel insurance if I can claim compensation from the airline?

Whether you can claim from the airline depends on a variety of factors. And even if the airline refunds you for a flight, you’ll still need protection for other non-refundable expenses if your trip is disrupted.

As well as travel insurance for flights, your policy will also cover emergency medical costs, including repatriation if you need to be flown home because of illness or injury. You’ll also be covered if your baggage is lost, stolen or damaged through no fault of your own.

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