Does standard travel insurance cover cancelled flights?

Travel insurance policies do not directly provide compensation for cancelled flights. You can instead obtain compensation for a cancelled flight by applying to the airline (further details are provided below), and you can do this regardless of the level of cover provided by your travel insurance policy. In fact, you can apply for cancelled flight compensation even if you have no travel insurance at all.

‘Cancellation cover’ in terms of travel insurance can refer to one of three things.

Firstly, your policy may cover you for other costs you incur as a result of your flight being cancelled, such as not being able to complete your journey to a hotel you have pre-booked, missing a connecting flight further in your journey, or for having to cancel a hire car that was waiting for you at the airport for when your flight should have arrived. Not all travel insurance policies offer this cover, so if this is important to you, check the policy features before you buy. If you aren’t covered, then you may need to pay for the costs of the room and/or the car hire out of your own pocket, even though you weren’t able to use them.

Secondly, travel insurance can provide cover should you need to cancel your place on a flight. This may be due to:

  • Unforeseen illness or injury 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
  • You being required to attend a court of law as a witness or on jury service
  • You being made redundant from your job
  • You or your travelling companion is a member of the armed forces, police, fire, nursing, or ambulance services or a Government employee and you or they have their authorised leave cancelled meaning you are unable to travel.
  • The police requesting you to remain at home or return from your holiday because of damage to your home caused by fire, explosion, flood, theft

Cover in these circumstances will vary from one policy to another so check with your insurance provider if this cover is important to you.

Make sure you keep evidence of the reasons why you need to cancel your trip, as your insurance provider will want to see this evidence.

Cover is unlikely to be available for illnesses or injuries resulting from drug abuse, for illnesses suffered by more distant relatives (such as aunts, uncles, grandparents or cousins), or if you simply decided you no longer wanted to go on holiday.

The third way in which your policy may cover you for cancellations is if your flight is either delayed for more than 24 hours, or if your flight is cancelled and the airline fails to get you on an alternative flight within 24 hours. In these circumstances, your policy may allow you to abandon your holiday altogether and reclaim all of your costs.

Which companies cover cancelled flights as standard?

The second type of ‘cancellation cover’ described above – cover should you need to cancel your flight due to an unforeseen event - is usually covered as standard on a travel insurance policy.

The first type of cover - for other costs you incur as a result of your flight being cancelled, such as wasted hotel room bookings and unused hire cars, also may or may not be covered by your policy.

Does travel insurance cover flight cancellations?

What to do if your flight is cancelled

If your flight is cancelled, or is delayed by more than three hours, you should contact the airline and request that they pay you compensation. Check their website or phone them to verify the exact procedure for making a claim. You have a legal right to compensation if you were flying to or from a European Union (EU) country or with an EU-based airline. Depending on the extent of the disruption you suffered, you could receive between €250 and €600 in compensation.

You may not be entitled to compensation if the delay/cancellation was due to a severe weather event, or anything else that was beyond the airline’s control. You are not automatically entitled to a full refund if the flight is cancelled due to strike action, although your airline may still offer one, so give it a go. For example, an airline can avoid paying a refund if it offers you the chance to travel to the same destination once the strike has finished.

To find travel insurance with the right level of cover for you why not compare the market today and see how much you could save?