Travel Insurance

Flight cancellations: Will your travel insurance cover you?

HOLIDAY chaos has erupted with thousands of flights cancelled and long queues at airports. Will your travel insurance help?

HOLIDAY chaos has erupted with thousands of flights cancelled and long queues at airports.

Many travellers have even had their flights cancelled while sat on their plane ready to go.

Airports and airlines are blaming a lack of staff in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic causing lengthy waits to pass through security checks and flights having to be scaled back at the last minute.

They say it is a lengthy process to vet new recruits and train them.

But that is of little comfort to travellers who have had trips booked months in advance.

More than 30,000 people are thought to have faced travel disruption during the May half term, including many who were ordered to disembark planes ready for take-off.

Speaking earlier this month, the boss of Cornwall Airport Newquay, Tim Jeans said airports should have been better prepared for the rush of families wanting to get away.

He told Radio 4's Today programme: "We should have planned better, we should have understood that the peak would come back particularly this summer, but it came back earlier than people anticipated."

He said it "is going to take 18 months for our industry to recover" but added: "I don't think you could lay this all at the door of the Government; we've had to resource our operations better than we did over the Easter and half-term break."

The terms airlines have with airports meant they over-promised how many flights they could operate, Huw Merriman, chairman of the Transport Select Committee revealed.

He told the Today programme: "I think there's been a failure to understand that you can't just flick a switch and expect the aviation industry to restart. They only had the full go-ahead on March 18. There's a requirement for them to operate 70% of their slots, otherwise they could lose them.

"So effectively, the Government and Parliament have told them to restart at those levels, but it can take three months to get staff recruited and through the vetting process...

"As a result, you've got the perfect storm where you haven't got enough staff in a job market where people are already worried about the future of aviation because they've lost jobs and it's been start stop, and also where you've got record unemployment levels of 1.2 million job vacancies".

So what are a passenger's rights if their flight is cancelled? And can travel insurance help?

If a flight going to or from the EU, or operated by an EU-based company is cancelled, the airline has an obligation to give the passenger:

  • A full refund for the parts of the ticket not used.
  • An alternative flight to reach your destination as soon as possible, or at a later date. The airline should also pay for the transport to the original airport or nearby alternative.
  • If the flight is cancelled within 14 days of the departure date, a passenger may also be entitled to compensation.
  • If the re-scheduled flight is not until the next day airlines should provide accommodation and meals. If this is not provided and the party has to fund it themselves, they should keep receipts and try to claim it back from the airline.

For flights on non-EU airlines, it depends on the terms and conditions of the contract agreed when booking. But largely it should be the same as above.

Travel insurance can also cover the costs of accommodation, food, and unused transfers, depending on how comprehensive the policy is.

If you cancel your flight

Travel insurance will cover some reasons for the passenger cancelling their flight. These are normally redundancy, bereavement, medical emergency or treatment, or if an emergency means their home becomes uninhabitable.

However, travel insurance won't cover every reason for cancelling. If the circumstance isn't covered, a traveller may be able to recouperate some of the money from the airline.

Each airline has its own cancellation policy and sometimes these come with added fees, or only part of the price of the flight will be refunded.

Read our guide on how to boost your chance of having a travel insurance claim approved, here.

Erin Yurday

Erin Yurday is the CEO, Co-founder and Editor of NimbleFins. Prior to NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in Stanford University's Graduate School of Business case writing team. Read more on LinkedIn.

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