How to check travel insurance policies: which ones? reports that four in 10 do not protect themselves against strikes

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The consumer group Which? indicates that four out of 10 travel insurance policies do not cover travelers in the event of a strike by airport or airline staff. The researchers assessed nearly 200 policy documents and found that 78 did not cover the effects of industrial action.

Fortunately, consumer law means that in many cases the consequences of strikes are borne by airlines and tour operators.

These are the main questions and answers.

What did the search find?

Of the 199 travel insurance policies audited, 120 offered coverage if travelers had to cancel a trip due to strikes. One of the remaining 79 had optional industrial action coverage, while the others did not provide for cancellation due to a strike.

Jenny Ross, Who? The editor of Money, said: “With many airlines warning of widespread disruption this summer and rising Covid cases, travelers should ensure they have adequate insurance to cover any unforeseen losses or costs they may face.”

What happens if a strike disrupts my trip?

In almost all circumstances, the airline is responsible for the proper execution of your trip.

For example, SAS today suspended flights from London Heathrow to Copenhagen, Oslo and Stavanger due to a pilot strike. The Scandinavian airline must get passengers to their destination on the same day if there is a way to do so – ideally (from its point of view) on one of its still operating flights, but otherwise by paying for a ticket on a other carrier.

In this case, British Airways is offering London-Copenhagen flights for £540 one-way – a fare SAS has trouble with, not you. The carrier advises passengers to “arrange alternative means of transport themselves and seek reimbursement from SAS”.

The same agreement applies to all other existing and threatened industrial action – including easyJet and Ryanair cabin crew in various European countries, as well as the 700 passenger service agents working for British Airways at Heathrow (a notice two weeks is required for industrial action, so nothing will take place until July 20).

What if there is no alternative flight on the same day?

The airline that cancels a flight – for whatever reason – must provide a hotel room and meals until they can get you to your destination. Again, chances are the carrier won’t provide this and you should keep all receipts. Alcohol is not included.

What if I’m on a package holiday?

The picture is bleaker, but it is assumed that your vacation will work out: the airline must offer you an alternative way to get you to your destination. There’s an extra layer of support from your tour operator (the travel agency that arranged the vacation for you), which just might help you find an alternative flight.

However, in extreme circumstances where no other flight is available, your holiday may be canceled in its entirety – with a full refund due to you within two weeks.

What about airport strikes?

If they lead to a flight cancellation, the airline is responsible for your transport and your well-being. For example, this summer we saw industrial action at Paris CDG by firefighters that led to the closure of a runway and the grounding of dozens of flights to and from the French capital. The airline must help you, whatever the cause.

I booked hotels and car rental separately. What if there is simply no way for me to reach my destination in order to have the trip I have booked?

It’s July. Airlines are canceling flights left, right and center. Therefore, some travelers may reluctantly conclude that they should forgo their trip. The airline will provide a full refund for the outward and return journeys. The aspects for which travel insurance could be relevant are:

  • You have booked separate airlines for the outward and return flights, and the outward journey is proceeding as normal, which means that you cannot obtain a refund.
  • Your hotel and car rental providers may not offer refunds.
  • Providers of pre-booked tours and experiences may not offer refunds.

In such a case, you should always ask if you can cancel without penalty. But if you can’t, you might be able to claim consequential losses. Note that if you are offered a voucher for future use, from a travel insurance perspective, this counts as a refund.

What should I look for?

Columbus Direct has a traveler-friendly policy that is a good coverage model to look for. The main category is “Travel delay, missed connection and abandonment”.

If a strike means “your flight, sea crossing, coach or train departure is delayed more than 12 hours beyond the scheduled departure”, you can cancel and request a refund up to the full cost (or coverage limit if lower). Of course, the amounts reimbursed to you must be subtracted from the claim.

You can also claim if, for example, a rail strike means you miss your flight and have to spend hundreds of pounds on a new ticket.

Captures?

Yes. If the strike has already been announced at the time you purchased a ticket and/or purchased the policy, your claim will likely be denied.

What is considered a strike for travel insurance purposes?

Each insurer will have its own definition: for Staysure, for example, it is broad: “Any form of industrial action, organized by a union or not, which is carried out with the intention of preventing, restraining or interfering with ‘another way with the production of goods or the provision of services’.

This would cover “wildcat” (unofficial) strikes, where workers walk out even if their union has not told them to, as well as non-strike actions, such as banning overtime.

What should I do if I am not satisfied with the response from my travel insurer?

You can send your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Do I also receive cash compensation if my flight is cancelled?

It’s not clear. The European Court of Justice, the supreme authority in cases concerning air passenger rights rules, has said that “wildcat” or unofficial strikes count as extraordinary circumstances and therefore do not qualify for compensation. There is no certainty as to whether official strikes – which are much more common – are eligible.

But Coby Benson, flight delay compensation lawyer at Bott and Co, said: ‘Staff strikes over pay are not considered an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ under Regulation EC 261 and, by therefore, passengers who are delayed for more than three hours or whose flight is canceled within 14 days. are due compensation of up to £520 per passenger.

“Courts have previously held that events like these are well within the airline’s control and that dealing with disgruntled staff is simply an integral part of running any business.”

Much of the industrial action that takes place at airports involves ground handling companies. As these are contracted by the airlines, they are equivalent to a cancellation by the carrier and may give rise to compensation.

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