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Does travel insurance cover strikes?

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?

Patrick Ikhena
From the Travel team
4
minute read
posted 2 MARCH 2020

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?

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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.

You may also be eligible for compensation from the airline under EU law.

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 under rules set out by the European Union.

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

  • leaves from an EU airport or arrives at an EU airport
  • and is operated by an EU airline

Under European regulation EC 261/04, you also have the right to help, like being provided with food or overnight accommodation, if necessary.

But although passengers typically have the right to compensation under EU rules 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.

What happens when the UK leaves the EU?

The transition period after Brexit is due to last until at least 31 December 2020, so nothing is expected to change until then. Post Brexit, the rules on air passenger rights and compensation have been incorporated into UK law, so as things stand, there shouldn’t be any significant changes.

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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