A missed departure is when a customer doesn’t make it to their departure point – the airport, ferry/cruise terminal or train station where their trip begins – in time to go on their journey.
Missed departure is not the same as travel delay. Travel insurance policies cover an amount which can be used towards additional accommodation and transport costs the customer incurs to get to their intended holiday destination – as long as the reason the customer is late is covered under the policy.
Reasons usually covered include:
- mechanical breakdown or failure of public transport
- heavy traffic or road closures
- the customer’s vehicle breaking down or being involved in an accident
Travel delay policies apply when customers get to the airport on time, but their flight has been delayed. It also usually covers other forms of transport like ferries.
Some policies cover travel delay for any reason, but others list specific reasons like:
- strike and industrial action
- poor weather conditions
- mechanical breakdown of public transport
Most travel insurance policies allow customers to abandon your holiday if they’ve been delayed a certain amount of time – usually 24 hours – on their outward journey.
Some policies also cover abandonment of part of a trip when there is a delay of a certain length on a connecting flight. The insurer will pay for the cost of the abandoned trip or the abandoned part of the trip.
Types of complaint we see
Customers contact us to complain to us because they:
- had a fight which was cancelled and have been told it isn’t covered by their policy
- missed their connecting flight which their insurer says isn’t covered
- paid for food or accommodation costs which aren’t covered by their policy
- arranged another flight which the insurance company won’t cover
- abandoned their holiday before the end of the 24-hour period which the insurance company won’t cover
- lost holiday time that isn’t covered by their policy
Handling a complaint like this
As with any complaint, we’ll expect you to work with your customer to get to the bottom of what happened, investigate fairly whether anything went wrong, and – where appropriate – take steps to put things right.
If you don’t reply within the time limits for responding to a complaint, or the customer disagrees with your response, they can bring their complaint to us. We’ll check it’s something we can deal with, and if it is, we’ll investigate.
Read more about resolving complaints.
What we look at
When we investigate a complaint, we’ll consider:
- Insurance Conduct of Business Sourcebook (ICOBS) rules on sales of insurance products.
- The policy terms and conditions, to make sure the specific reason the customer missed their flight, boat or train is covered, or the cause of the delay is a covered reason
- Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 – “the cancelled flights directive” for cases where a connecting flight is missed. This sets out customer’s entitlements to compensation from their airline in certain circumstances if their flight is cancelled or delayed.
Complaints about missed departure
Did the customer leave enough time?
If we think a customer left home too late and didn’t give themselves a reasonable amount of time to reach their international departure point, then we wouldn’t expect the claim to be covered by their travel insurance policy.
For missed flight complaints, we’ll consider the airport’s recommendations for check-in. If the airport recommended the customer check in two hours before their flight time, then the customer should leave themselves enough time to get to the airport two hours before their flight.
Most travel insurance policies don’t cover missed departures that happen because of long security checks at the airport.
Connecting flights and policy exclusions
Most travel insurance policies cover missed departure claims caused by ‘mechanical breakdown or failure of public transport’. The definition of public transport usually includes aircraft.
Most policies cover their customers if their flight delay means they then miss a connecting flight.
Some policies only cover the first leg of the outbound journey leaving the UK, or the first leg of the return journey.
If you have an exclusion like this in your policy, it should be clearly highlighted in your policy documentation. If the exclusion isn’t clear, and we think it’s unfairly affected your customer, we might say you can’t rely on the exclusion when assessing the claim.
Policies that don't have missed departure cover
Missed departure cover is found in most travel policies – and it’s unusual for a policy not to include it. Some policies may have missed departure as an optional add-on. We’d expect you to make it clear to your customer if your policy doesn’t have this cover included.
Most policies also cover missed departure on the outward and return flights. If you want to limit your cover to just the outward flight, you should clearly highlight this. If the exclusion isn’t clear, and we think it’s unfairly affected your customer, we might say you can’t rely on the exclusion when assessing the claim.
Private taxis and public transport
Some policies cover customers if they’re using public transport and there’s been a mechanical breakdown. But some insurers might not accept a private taxi as public transport.
We’d look at what’s fair and reasonable. If we think your customer would have missed their flight regardless of whether they’d travelled by public transport or by private taxi/their own car, then we might think it’s fair and reasonable for you to pay the claim.
We’d usually expect a customer to make a reasonable effort to get some sort of written confirmation to support their claim.
If a customer hasn’t provided enough evidence, or evidence from the right source, we’d expect you to guide them where possible. While we know it’s for a consumer to prove they have a claim, they may not realise who is the right organisation to contact, for example Highways England. So in these situations we’d expect you to explain what further information you need and if you can, where they could find it, not just for the claim to be declined.
For claims where the cancellation of an outbound flight means a connecting flight was missed, if a consumer can’t get evidence from the airline, we might accept news reports of cancelled and delayed flights as evidence in support of their claim.
Complaints about delay and abandonment
You might say a claim isn’t covered because a flight was cancelled and not delayed. Our view is that the impact on the customer is the same whether the flight was delayed or cancelled.
Airlines have their own responsibilities to passengers where a flight has been delayed or cancelled.
Often an airline will arrange a replacement flight within 24 hours. We’ll look at what the airline offered and the reasons why your customer abandoned their trip if that’s what happened.
Your customer’s policy may say that only the first leg of the outbound journey leaving the UK or the first leg of the return journey is covered. This means customers with multi-leg trips or connecting flights won’t be able to claim for problems with the other parts of their journey.
If your policy has this restriction, it should have been highlighted to your customer. If you haven’t clearly highlighted this restriction, we might not think it’s fair for you to rely on the exclusion.
Travel delay is usually a fixed benefit – so you’ll pay out a fixed amount for each hour of delay over a certain period of time. Sometimes customers complain that their fixed benefit payment has been reduced because of compensation they’ve had from an airline.
If an airline has paid a customer for their costs, or compensation under the cancelled flights directive we don’t think it’s fair for you to reduce any fixed benefit payment under their travel insurance policy.
Your customer made alternative arrangements to travel
We see complaints from customers who make their own arrangements to travel and are then told they’ve lost their fixed benefit.
We’d look at how long your customer would have waited if they hadn’t made their own way. Your customer may have reduced your financial exposure by taking action to prevent further costs in travelling sooner rather than later. So we’d usually think it’s fair that you pay them:
- the travel delay amount they would’ve received if they’d waited the full time
- their extra travel costs up to the value of what an abandonment claim would’ve been
Your customer abandoned their trip before the set delay period has passed
If your customer finds out there are no flights for a few days they might decide to abandon their trip and go home. We see complaints from customers who say they’ve had their abandonment claim turned because they didn’t experience a 24-hour delay.
We’ll look at the circumstances of each case. If we’re satisfied that there was no other way for your customer to continue the holiday for at least 24 hours, then it makes no difference that the trip was abandoned early. We’ll think it’s fair to ask you to pay the claim.
Lost time on holiday
Sometimes a customer could have made an abandonment claim – but instead waited for the flight. By doing this, they’ve lost a day or more of their holiday.
By choosing to go on a shorter trip, the customer has reduced your loss – if they’d not done this you would’ve been responsible for paying for the full cost of the abandoned holiday.
We might think it’s fair for you to consider covering any unused or additional costs up to the value of any abandonment claim. For example, if the customer has lost a night in a hotel we might say you should cover that loss.
We’d usually expect a customer to make a reasonable effort to get some sort of written confirmation from the airline to support their claim. If they can’t, we might accept news reports of cancelled and delayed flights as evidence in support of a customer’s claim.
Putting things right
If we think you have made a mistake or treated a consumer unfairly, we'll ask you to put things right. Our general approach is that the customer should be put back in the position they would have been in if the problem hadn't happened.
The exact details of how we'll ask you to put things right will depend on the complaint, and how the customer lost out. In some cases, we may also ask you to compensate the customer for any distress or inconvenience they've experienced as a result of the problem.
If you want to talk informally about a complaint you've received, you can speak to our technical desk. They can give general information on how the Financial Ombudsman might look at a particular complaint. We also offer guidance on our rules and how we work.
Find out how to contact the technical desk.
A customer has money deducted from his fixed benefit because he’s already had compensation from his airline
A customer buys a new flight to avoid a 12-hour delay but is told that his policy doesn't cover the cost of the new flight