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Volcanic ash travel insurance

In 2010, a volcanic eruption in Iceland caused havoc across Europe, as thousands of flights were cancelled, leaving people stranded or unable to go on holiday.

Since then, travellers have also been stuck in countries such as Bali, Hawaii and Indonesia following eruptions.

So what should you look for if you want a buy a travel insurance policy that covers volcanic ash?

In 2010, a volcanic eruption in Iceland caused havoc across Europe, as thousands of flights were cancelled, leaving people stranded or unable to go on holiday.

Since then, travellers have also been stuck in countries such as Bali, Hawaii and Indonesia following eruptions.

So what should you look for if you want a buy a travel insurance policy that covers volcanic ash?

Written by
Helen Phipps
Insurance comparison expert
Last Updated
30 DECEMBER 2022
5 min read
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What is volcanic ash travel insurance?

Volcanic ash travel insurance offers cover to anyone who suffers from a cancelled or delayed flight in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption. It isn’t a policy in its own right, but it’s something that can be included in your cover – although it’s likely that you won’t get this as standard.

Am I covered for volcanic ash disruption?

If you already have travel insurance, for example an annual policy, check the small print for any mention of ‘travel disruption cover or natural catastrophe cover’ or extreme weather events. Can’t find it? Talk to your insurance provider and find out what their stance is. Some providers offer this type of cover, usually for an additional fee.

Natural catastrophes normally include: volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes, tornados and wildfires.

Customers with pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a serious health condition, your travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. Whatever happens, don’t lie to an insurance provider, because this could mean your claim is rejected. When you declare any medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show you quotes from insurance providers who will cover them, with no exclusions.

If your condition is more serious, MoneyHelper has a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone. You can call them on 0800 138 7777.

What does travel disruption insurance due to volcanic ash cover?

Policies or add-ons that cover travel disruption due to volcanic ash or other natural disasters may include:

  • Alternative accommodation and travel expenses
  • Missed connections, delays and trip cancellations that aren’t ABTA/ATOL protected
  • Emergency evacuation
  • Medical expenses for injuries and repatriation to the UK
  • Cover for lost and damaged possessions.

It’s important to check your policy details to make sure you understand just what’s covered and what’s not in the event of a natural disaster.

What isn’t covered?

Even if you have disruption cover for volcanic ash, it’s unlikely you’ll be covered for:

  • Refunds for ABTA/ATOL-protected disruptions – these should be covered by your airline or tour operator
  • Travelling against Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice
  • ‘Known events’ – any event that was predicted before you travelled
  • A natural disaster or event that isn’t covered in your policy.

Did you know?

The eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull in 2010 led to over 100,000 flight cancellations in Europe and across the North Atlantic at an estimated cost of £3 billion. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the eruption resulted in around £62 million in travel insurance claims.

What should I do if there is volcanic ash disruption?

If you're planning to travel somewhere where there's ash cloud disruption and your travel operator allows you to make alternative travel arrangements, your travel insurance can usually be transferred to cover the new destination.

The first thing to do when claiming costs in the event of any disruption is to contact your airline or tour operator.

If you’ve booked on a package deal, tour operators must refund your costs if they cancel your trip.

If your flights are cancelled or flights/connections missed, the airline must rebook you on alternative flights. Their priority should be to find you a seat on a new flight so that you can travel as early as possible.

Even though the UK is no longer part of the EU, 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.

If airspace is closed, the airline should provide hotel accommodation, meals and refreshments until a new flight is provided. They’ll usually give you a daily allowance for the extras.

If you organise your own travel or hotel stays, you can apply to the airline for a refund on your return. Be careful with the costs and keep your receipts though, as airlines won’t pay amounts they consider unreasonable.

Do I get a refund and/or compensation if my flight is cancelled?

If your flight is cancelled due to volcanic ash cloud or bad weather, it’s deemed out of the airline’s control. In this case, it’s unlikely that you’ll be eligible for financial compensation from the airline.

This is when a volcanic ash travel insurance add-on could come in handy. An add-on policy might also give you more flexibility to make alternative travel and accommodation arrangements, rather than relying on the efficiency of your airline.

How do I make a travel disruption claim?

Before you make a claim on your travel insurance, check to see what, if any, compensation you may be entitled to from your airline. Although it’s unlikely they’ll refund you for outside of their control, such as volcanic ash.

If you booked your holiday through a tour operator, they should offer you compensation or give you the option to book an alternative trip.

If you booked your trip individually, you may need to claim on your travel insurance.

Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible. They will let you know what you can claim for. Make sure you have your policy number to hand, as well as any relevant info to help back up your claim.

Travel smart and buy travel insurance

Getting to your destination should hopefully be plain sailing. However, if things go wrong travel insurance can give you financial protection.

If you book a package holiday, you should be protected under the ATOL scheme if your holiday provider goes bust. But if you’re travelling independently, you’ll need to buy insurance that providers cover against ‘end supplier failure’. This will pay out if, for example, your hotel goes out of business.

Having travel cover also means you have financial protection against the cost of medical care, theft, and other risks.

It’s a good idea to take out travel insurance when you book your holiday. This should cover the cost of your holiday should you need to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances, such as bereavement.

Travel policies vary so make sure you check your cover to find out what it includes. We make it easy to compare travel insurance from some of the market’s leading providers.

Frequently asked questions

Which are the world’s most active volcanoes?

The world’s most active volcanoes at risk of eruption include:

  • Mauna Loa – Hawaii
  • Eyjafjallajokull – Iceland
  • Mount Vesuvius – Italy
  • Mount Nyiragongo – Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Taal Volcano – Philippines
  • Mount Merapi – Indonesia
  • Sakurajima – Japan.

How do I find out if it’s safe to travel?

Wherever you’re travelling to, it’s always a good idea to check for updates before your departure. You can find information at:

You can also monitor the status of your flight on your airline’s website.

If your flight is cancelled due to bad weather or a natural disaster, you’ll get an email notification from your tour operator or airline.

Am I covered if I decide to travel anyway?

If the FCDO advises against travel to a country and you decide to travel there anyway, your travel insurance will be invalid and you’ll no longer be covered.

It is possible to get travel insurance for high-risk destinations, but you’ll need to find a specialist provider who offers this specific type of cover.

Do all standard travel insurance policies exclude natural disasters?

It depends on the level of cover you choose, as most standard travel insurance policies do exclude natural disasters. However some policies could offer this as an optional extra or upgrade.

What else does travel disruption insurance cover?

As well as natural catastrophes, travel disruption add-ons could also provide cover for events including:

Travel disruption insurance can vary between providers, so always check what’s covered before deciding on a policy.

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