Cancelled flights and holiday disruption
Many people in the UK have recently experienced travel disruption due to flight cancellation and delays. If you have experienced delay or disruption, you should first contact your travel provider, tour operator and/or airline to discuss the current situation regarding travel and/or to seek a refund for any cancelled flights or trips.
If a flight is cancelled, you may be entitled to an alternative flight at no extra cost or a refund under European Regulation 261/2004. You may also be entitled to compensation if your flight was cancelled less than 14 days before departure.
If you booked a package holiday, you may be entitled to a full refund from your travel provider under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018.
Claiming on your travel insurance policy
Most travel insurance policies don’t cover claims if the losses can be recovered from another source. So, before contacting your travel insurance provider, you should:
- ask the airline/travel provider for a refund or compensation where you can
- ask the airline/package holiday provider to confirm, in writing, why they won’t consider a refund or compensation
What is missed departure, delay and abandonment?
What is missed departure?
This part of the policy applies when you haven’t been able to make it to your point of departure (airport, ferry terminal etc.) and so have missed your transport. Policies will list the specific situations in which you are covered, but 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
You’ll need to check your policy booklet to see what situations are covered – policies only cover situations that are outside of your control and where you left plenty of time to get to your departure point.
Policies will often have a fixed amount payable in this situation. You’ll only be entitled to claim what you need of this amount, but it can be used to book new transport to your intended destination and could also be used for overnight accommodation or extra travel costs if required. If your new transport costs more than the policy limit, you’ll likely need to cover the extra amount yourself.
What is delay?
Travel delay policies apply when you get to the airport on time, but your 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
You might pay extra for your policy to include add-ons that cover other causes of delay like volcanic ash clouds and hurricanes.
Most policies give you a set payment amount for a delay over a certain time, like £50 for every hour over 12 hours.
If the delay is long enough, you may be able to abandon your holiday and make a cancellation claim.
What is abandonment?
Most travel insurance policies allow you to abandon your holiday if you’ve been delayed a certain amount of time – usually 24 hours – on your 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.
Travel delay is usually a fixed benefit – so your insurer will pay out a fixed amount for each hour of delay over a certain period of time. Any extra costs you’ve had, like buying extra food, aren’t usually covered.
Types of complaint we see
Consumers contact us to complain because they:
- had a fight which was cancelled and 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
What we look at
We’ll check the policy wording to make sure the cause of the delay is covered. You’ll usually need to give us evidence of the cause and length of the delay.
For missed departure claims we’ll need to consider whether you did leave enough time to reach your departure point. For example, if a flight was missed, we’ll consider the airport’s recommendations for check-in. If the airport recommended you check in two hours before the flight time, then you should’ve allowed enough time to get to the airport two hours before the flight.
Most travel insurance policies don’t cover missed departures that happen because of long security checks at the airport.
You can find more detail at some of the things we look at:
We know it can be difficult to get information about the cause and length of a delay.
For missed departure, we’d need evidence of the delay that prevented you from making it to your departure point. This could involve you contacting the provider of the public transport or providing evidence to show your car broke down and couldn’t be fixed at the roadside.
If your flight was delayed, we’d usually expect you to make a reasonable effort to get some sort of written confirmation from the airline to support your claim. If you can’t, we might accept news reports of cancelled and delayed flights as evidence in support of your claim.
Insurers sometimes say a claim isn’t covered because a flight was cancelled and not delayed. We look at the impact it had on you whether the flight was delayed or cancelled.
Airlines have their own responsibilities to passengers where a flight has been delayed or cancelled.
Sometimes the airline will arrange a replacement flight within 24 hours. We’ll consider what the airline offered and the reasons why you abandoned your trip if that’s what happened.
Your 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 that if you have a multi-leg trip or connecting flight, you won’t be able to claim for problems with the other parts of your journey.
If your policy has this restriction, it should have been highlighted to you. If your insurer hasn’t clearly highlighted this restriction, we might not think it’s fair for your insurer to rely on the exclusion.
If you’re claiming for missed departure, you might be covered for accommodation costs if you need to stay overnight before you can continue with your journey. But remember this section often has a cost limit for cover, so if you have used most of this for a new flight, you may not have enough for accommodation costs too. The insurer isn’t required to pay more than the cost limit of this section.
If you’re claiming under delay and the flight has been delayed for a day, and you decide to check into an airport hotel and wait, the cost of this isn’t usually covered by the delay section. You’ll just get the fixed benefit under the insurance claim (for example £50 for every hour delayed). It’s unlikely you’ll be able to claim for missed departure and delay – as one requires you to be late, whereas the other requires you to have been on time, but your transport delayed.
If an airline has paid you for your costs or compensation under the cancelled flights directive we don’t think it’s fair if your insurer reduces any fixed benefit payment under your travel insurance policy.
If you’ve made alternative arrangements
In some cases, we might think it’s fair for your insurer to pay the travel delay or abandonment benefit you might have been entitled to if you hadn’t made your own arrangements.
If you abandon your trip before the set delay period has passed
We’ll consider the individual circumstances of each case. If we’re satisfied that there was no other way for you to continue your holiday for at least 24 hours, then we might think it makes no difference that you abandoned your trip early. We may ask the insurer to pay your claim.
Lost time on holiday
Sometimes you could have made an abandonment claim – but instead you waited for your flight. By doing this, you’ve lost a day or more of your holiday.
We might think it would be fair for your insurer to consider covering any unused or additional costs up to the value of any abandonment claim. For example, if you’ve lost a night in a hotel, we might say the insurer should cover that loss.
How to complain
Talk to your insurer first. They need to have the chance to put things right. They have to give you their final response within eight weeks for most types of complaint.
If you’re unhappy with their response, or if they don’t respond, let us know. We’ll check your complaint is something we can deal with, and if it is, we’ll investigate to understand what happened and what went wrong.
Find out more about how to complain.
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.
I missed the ferry departure, but my insurer has turned down my claim