Lifestyle Guides

How to get your money back after travel disruption

From cancelled flights to volcanic ash clouds, claiming reimbursement for disrupted holidays isn’t as difficult as you might think


Upon booking a trip away, it’s far too easy to lose yourself in idyllic daydreams – relaxing by the pool, perhaps, or exploring an exotic city in the radiant sun. Few of us want to spend our pre-holiday period worrying about being delayed at the airport, or stranded in an unknown place.

Yet this has been the reality for thousands of travellers recently: the aftermath of Monarch’s untimely collapse and Ryanair’s controversial flight cancellations meant that many were left with lost bookings, ruining countless vacation plans and causing unwelcome holiday headaches for those waiting to return home from their travels.

Knowing how to deal with such situations (and if possible, preparing for them ahead of time) can make unexpected travel disruptions a lot easier to deal with. Here’s how to claim the reimbursement you're entitled to if your holiday doesn’t go to plan.

Compensation for cancelled or delayed flights

If the delay or cancellation of your flight was the fault of the airline you booked your journey with (such as the recent example of flights cancelled by Ryanair due to inefficient scheduling of pilot holidays), you are legally entitled to compensation.

A European Regulation protecting the rights of airline passengers came into force in 2004, setting out the rights of passengers to receive compensation in the event of delayed or cancelled flights. As long as your booked flight was scheduled to depart from a country that’s a member of the European Union, you’ll be entitled to compensation under this ruling.

Certain situations, such as security risks and dangerous weather, are out of an airline’s control. If your flight is delayed or cancelled in these circumstances, your airline is not legally required to compensate you. Your travel insurance provider may be able to reimburse you in such instances.

Reimbursement for ATOL protected holidays

ATOL (Air Travel Organiser's Licence) is a financial protection scheme run by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Package holidays bought from an ATOL protected tour operator are covered by the company you booked the holiday with.

This means that if your holiday is affected due to a company going into administration, your tour operator will need to provide alternative travel or accommodation for you, as well as covering any additional costs incurred.

It’s important to note that this only applies to ATOL protected package holidays – if you booked your flights and accommodation independently, you won’t have ATOL protection.

For example, people who booked package holidays with recently-bust tour operator Monarch will be able to make an ATOL claim for reimbursement. However, those who only booked their flights with Monarch will not be protected – making a travel insurance claim is your best bet in this situation.

Travel disruption cover as part of your travel insurance policy

When compensation can’t be claimed from the airline or travel agent you booked your holiday with, your travel insurance provider may be able to reimburse you. All insurance policies are different, so it’s important check the wording of yours carefully to find out whether you’ll be able make a claim (not all policies (including Admiral) provide travel disruption cover).

Common issues covered by travel disruption cover include strikes and industrial action, dangerous weather, closed airspace and company insolvencies. Individual policies vary in terms of what they cover, but will often include the cost of alternative travel and accommodation in the event of a successful claim. Some may also cover expenses such as visas, airport parking and car hire.

Claiming a refund from your credit card provider

Thanks to Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, any purchase made on a credit card costing between £100 and £30,000 is protected.

This means that if you’ve booked a holiday on your credit card and your flight operator or hotel goes bust, you will be able to receive a full refund from your credit card provider. It’s therefore a good idea to pay for big purchases such as holidays with a credit card rather than a debit card, as the latter does not provide this kind of protection.

Claiming a refund from your debit or prepaid card provider

Chargeback is a scheme which works for Visa Debit, Maestro, Visa Electron and MasterCard Debit. Similar to Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, Chargeback gives you the opportunity of getting a refund from your bank for expenses under £100 if a company goes into administration.

This means that if you’ve booked a flight or a hotel room on your debit card and your flight operator or hotel goes bust, you will be able to receive a refund from your debit card provider. Although it’s a good idea to pay for big purchases such as holidays with a credit card, a debit card still offers some protection.

Things to look for in your travel insurance policy

Nobody wants to be left out of pocket – or worse, stuck abroad with nowhere to stay – if their travel plans end up being disrupted.

In order to fully cover yourself when travelling, check whether your travel insurance provider accepts claims in the following potential scenarios.

War and terrorism

War and terrorism can make travelling to certain parts of the world dangerous. Affected areas are listed by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), who advise against travelling to regions affected by civil unrest. If you’ve chosen to travel to such a location, it’s unlikely that your insurer will pay out in the event of a claim, unless the advice is issued during your stay in the affected area.

Before buying travel insurance, check the policy carefully to make sure the destination you are travelling to is covered.

Admiral Travel Insurance does not currently offer cover for repatriation in the event of a terrorist attack – this is organized by the UK government. We offer cover for medical emergencies caused by terrorism, but unfortunately we cannot offer cover if you want to cancel a future holiday because of a terrorist attack. 

Natural disasters and volcanic ash clouds

In 2010, an ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano wreaked havoc across Europe, grounding thousands of flights and scuppering the holiday plans of travellers across the continent. Since then, some (but not all) insurance providers offer policies providing cover against ash clouds.

Natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires may be covered in your insurance policy, although some plans specifically exclude natural events, classifying them as ‘acts of God’. If you are travelling to a part of the world that is known to be affected by natural disasters, it’s wise to make sure that your insurance policy covers you against them.

Travel companies going bust

The recent collapse of Monarch served as a reminder that it pays to be prepared for every circumstance when travelling, including your airline or tour operator going bust.

‘Scheduled airline failure insurance’ (SAFI) and ‘end supplier failure’ are two other types of cover you could consider buying, but it’s important to be aware that your SAFI provider will only pay out if you’ve gone through all of the previously mentioned avenues first.