Does travel insurance cover strikes?

Barely a holiday season goes by without airline, air traffic control or pilot strikes. So what should you do if your holiday is interrupted by industrial action? And will your insurance cover you?

Barely a holiday season goes by without airline, air traffic control or pilot strikes. So what should you do if your holiday is interrupted by industrial action? And will your insurance cover you?

Josh Daniels
From the Travel team
4
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Posted 27 JANUARY 2021

How strikes impact travellers

In 2019, thousands of British Airways passengers had their flights cancelled because of a strike over pay by BA pilots. The year before, Ryanair was affected by industrial action by cabin crew staff. Strikes by airline and airport staff – from baggage handlers to air traffic controllers and pilots – are not uncommon. So, what’s the situation if one affects you?

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

Following the UK’s most recent national restrictions, you can only travel internationally or within the UK if you're legally permitted to do so while the UK is under full lockdown restrictions.

Non-essential travel is not currently permitted within the UK before 12 April 2021 at the earliest and international travel is not currently permitted before 17 May 2021 at the earliest. Any insurance for travel before these dates is likely to be invalid. This means that, unfortunately, we’re unable to provide any new single trip price comparisons for UK policies with a start date prior to 12 April 2021 and any single trip comparisons for international policies with a start date prior to 17 May 2021
 
You’re still able to purchase annual multi-trip policies, however, if you choose to travel against FCDO advice and current restrictions, you won’t be covered for your trip.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. See latest FCDO advice for further information.

Any insurance policy purchased to cover a trip to a destination where the local authority, or the FCDO, has instructed citizens not to travel, will not be valid.

For more information, please see our coronavirus and travel insurance page.

Until then, stay safe.

Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions

Our panel includes insurance providers who quote cover for all medical conditions declared on our website, with no exclusions.

On its Money Advice Service website, The Money and Pensions Service (MaPs) has launched a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone, if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at the Money Advice Service or by calling the British Insurance Brokers’ Association on 0370 950 1790.

Does travel insurance cover airline strikes?

Travel insurance can cover delay and cancellation caused by strikes. It’s a good idea to buy your travel insurance as soon as you’ve purchased your flights, because if a strike is announced later, you could be protected.

Depending on the situation and your policy, your travel insurance could allow you to reclaim your costs if your flight is delayed for more than 24 hours, or if it’s cancelled and the airline doesn’t book an alternative flight for you within 24 hours.

It may also cover you for costs arising from missed connections or delays caused by the strike. It won’t cover the cost of the flight itself, as you could get a refund from the airline for this.

However, some travel insurance policies specifically exclude cover for strikes, so check the terms and conditions before you buy. Also, remember that a travel insurance policy won’t cover you for strike action, if you buy it after the strike has been announced.

What should I do if my flight is affected by a strike?

If you hear about a forthcoming strike, the first thing to do is to contact the travel agent or airline, or look on their website.

If your flight is part of a package holiday, the company should normally make alternative arrangements for you. If you’ve booked directly through the airline, you may be offered an alternative flight, or possibly a refund.

Will I get compensation because of an airline strike?

Provided you’ve had at least two weeks’ notice of the strike, or the airline can offer you a rerouted flight that isn’t much different to your cancelled one, you won’t be entitled to any compensation.

But if the strike is announced fewer than 14 days before you’re due to travel, or you’re left stranded because of a strike, you have certain rights.

You have the right to a refund or an alternative flight, provided the flight:

  • was between the UK and EU
  • or was operated by a UK-based airline

But although passengers typically have the right to compensation if flights are cancelled or severely delayed, this might not apply if the reason for the delay is a strike. That’s because strikes are often considered to be ‘extraordinary circumstances’ – outside of the airline’s control.

However, this can depend on who is striking and the country where the disruption takes place. Strikes by airport staff tend to be considered as extraordinary circumstances. But if the action is being taken by the airline’s own staff – for example, a pilot strike – you could be entitled to compensation.

Should I book another flight?

Booking another flight before the strike is confirmed for definite, could be risky. If the strike is called off, or it doesn’t affect your journey, you might find yourself out of pocket, having paid for two flights. The airline won’t have to refund you if this happens.

How have things changed after Brexit?

After Brexit, and the UK officially left the EU, new rules were brought in to cover the gaps left behind in UK legislation. This means you’ll still have the right to compensation if your flight was between the UK and EU (no matter the airline), or any flight operated by a UK-based airline. Depending on the extent of the disruption you suffered, the amount you could get in compensation can vary.

Check your travel insurance cover

Patrick Ikhena, from Compare the Market, said: “Strikes by airline or airport staff are a huge inconvenience, but they do happen. It’s always wise to buy travel insurance as soon as you’ve purchased your flights, and to check the terms of your policy before you buy, to see exactly what it covers. Although insurance can’t make up for a ruined trip, it can at least ensure you’re not out of pocket if a strike happens."

Looking for a quote?

Get a new travel insurance quote in minutes and you could start saving

Get a quote
Compare travel insurance Get a quote