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
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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 

The travel traffic light system currently states that trips to green and amber listed countries are legally permitted if you live in England and Scotland. If you live in Wales and Northern Ireland, you still need to follow the rules for your relevant government.

If your destination of choice is on the green or amber list, you still need to check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. This is to ensure you are aware of any specific requirements relating to entry and ensure travellers from the UK are permitted. Countries can have their traffic light status changed with short notice and you should take this into consideration when looking to travel. Please check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for the latest information.

The FCDO currently advises against all but essential travel to red list countries. Most insurance policies purchased to cover a trip to a destination where the FCDO has instructed citizens not to travel to won’t be valid, however, some insurance providers may offer reduced cover if you’re travelling for essential purposes. Should you have any queries, please check the policy wording, or contact your chosen provider before purchasing, to ensure the cover meets your needs.

Travel within England, Scotland and Wales is permitted under the current guidelines. However, public health rules and lockdown restrictions continue to vary, including entry restrictions for Northern Ireland. Check the latest guidance from the official tourism boards for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.

Find out more here

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When you declare medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show quotes from insurance providers who will cover all declared medical conditions, with no exclusions. 

MoneyHelper 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 MoneyHelper or by calling them on 0800 138 7777.

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."

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