Holiday disruption cover – what to do when the unexpected happens

Best laid plans often go awry, especially when airlines are involved. Find out what to do if the worst does happen with our guide.

cancelled flight board

Travel – one of life's most enriching experiences. Insuring ourselves for such escapades is crucial, and despite preparing for issues such as loss of luggage and medical treatment abroad, many people are as clued up for when it comes to insurance for disruption to travel.


What is disruption to travel?

This can incorporate a wide variety of situations. From cancelled flights and ash clouds, to delayed ferries and extreme weather, there are various unexpected disruptions that can affect your trip. In simple terms, disruption is when any time schedules or expectations are not met, or you find yourself in a dangerous, unpredictable circumstance.

Your policy will outline what situations you are covered for, and there will also be a limit on the amount that you can claim.

What if my flight or other mode of transport is delayed or cancelled?

International departures (either outbound or return) are usually covered in the event that your flight is delayed or cancelled, if the transport breaks down, if there is an accident which causes a delay, or if there is strike or industrial action (which was not known about) that causes delay. Delays are compensated for from 12 hours or more, provided that you eventually go on the trip, and you must have already checked-in.

You won't be able to claim for these issues if you had reason to believe this would be the case before you travelled, or if your transport provider refused you or your travel companion because they're deemed unfit for travel.

Travel insurance for delays and missed departures tends to apply to international trips only, so you won't be able to claim for any transport issues for trips within the UK.

What happens if I abandon my trip?

Sometimes delays can feel like they go beyond the point of no return. If your international departure is delayed by more than 24 hours and you decide to abandon your trip, you can usually claim for the amount detailed on your policy. Compensation can cover costs such as accommodation, pre-booked excursions, unused deposits and car parking fees.

Personal belongings

Claims for any lost, stolen, delayed or accidentally damaged items that belong to you are usually accepted, but you must ensure that you keep all receipts and luggage tags. You need evidence and an accurate knowledge of the cost of your personal items so that you are compensated accurately. Your policy will outline the maximum value of items you can be compensated for, as well as potential excess charges. Delayed items typically require no excess.

You will need to obtain a Property Irregularity Report from your transport operator if personal belongings were lost, stolen or delayed in transit. Claims for delayed items on your return journey home are usually not accepted.

Find out more about insuring your personal possessions for travel.

Catastrophes and hijacks

A catastrophe can also be listed on a travel insurance policy as an 'act of God' or a force majeure, and includes natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and tsunamis. You will be able to claim for these types of disruptions, but you should read the policy carefully based on their extreme nature and the complications that can occur, or you may have to pay a higher premium to ensure that you're covered. Claims can be made for adverse effects to your accommodation or early returns home as a result of the catastrophe.

If you experience a hijacking on your trip, most insurance companies will compensate you for this. Claims can be made if you fail to reach your destination as a result of this, and you can be compensated for return journeys home or temporary accommodation. You will not be covered, however, if you are hijacked en route to a destination that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has deemed unsafe for travel.

What disruptions am I not covered for?

There are more complex issues that can occur when travelling abroad, and it is likely that these will not be covered by your insurance provider. Unless you're claiming for emergency medical treatment, a personal accident or repatriation (returning to the UK), it is highly unlikely you'll be able to claim for the following disruptions:

  • Any form of war (including civil war), rebellion, revolution, act of foreign enemy, hostilities or any other similar event.
  • Acts or threats of terrorism, including violence against another person, damage to property, endangering life, and creating risk for the public, as well as disrupting computer systems and cyber terrorism.
  • Computer or software failure or system failure that cannot process or recognise important data such as calendar dates, which in turn affect your trip. • Radioactive contamination from nuclear or toxic waste.
  • Anticipated events where you knew something was going to happen or could have been reasonably expected.
  • Disruptions relating to cruises or winter sports activities – you will need to take out separate insurance premiums for these types of trips.
  • Seized items that are in your care being confiscated, detained or delayed by Customs or other officials.

Find out more

Some disruptions to travel are more common than others, but with a comprehensive travel insurance policy, you can ensure that you are covered. Always read the terms in your policy carefully to understand what you can and cannot claim for, and make sure you are aware of any potential disruptions before you embark on your trip.