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Will travel insurance cover strikes?

Although a rare occurrence, in some cases industrial action at airports or with airlines can spoil a holiday of a lifetime. See in what circumstances travel insurance can protect you and what other support is available if your flight is cancelled or delayed.

Strike action for travellers is an added stress and frustration when planning our trips either within the UK or if we’re heading abroad. According to the Office for National Statistics  nearly 20% of people reported disruption to their travel plans due to strike action on Britain’s railways in 2022. Whilst this was mainly people looking to get to work, it would have also affected those using trains to head on holiday or to get to airports for further afield adventures.

It's not just rail strikes either, UK travellers have - over the course of the past few years – been affected by cabin crew, air traffic control, baggage handlers, border force, pilots and ferry staff plan strike action causing delays at the UK’s seaports and airports.

Whilst the airport operators tell us they are better prepared to handle strike action, there will always likely be some disruption when one or more critical elements of the travel ecosystem is missing or have less capacity.

In the event that you are affected by strike action on your next journey, our guide will walk you through the support you should get from your airline, travel operator and your travel insurance provider. 

Buying a travel insurance policy when you book your flights is often beneficial because if a strike is called and your flight is cancelled then you may well be covered. This protection does not only relate to the flights themselves but potentially other elements of the holiday including hotel stays and transfers.

Policies may also provide cover if you flights are delayed or missed due to transport issues, this could include missed connections. So, if disruption is not caused directly by industrial action but other factors relating to strikes then you may still be able to claim.

Importantly, travel insurance is there to protect you against unforeseen events and therefore you will not be covered if you purchase your policy after the strike has been announced.

The airline may be able to provide you compensation but it depends upon when the strikes are called. If you have more than two weeks’ notice then the airline can offer you a replacement flight similar to your original or you could ask for a refund, but there’ll be no additional compensation beyond this.

If you are notified less than 2 weeks before you fly – or if it affects you during your trip then under EU (and now UK law) you are entitled to additional assistance such as accommodation and food costs from the airline.

Beware that if strikes are called by airline workers (cabin crew or pilots employed by the airline) then you should be covered, however if strikes affect other critical staff but not employed by the airline (baggage handlers or air traffic controllers for example) then this may be deemed as extraordinary circumstances and may not be eligible for a pay out from the airline. 

Because the legalities around this stem from the EU, the coverage mainly relates to destinations in the EU and EU airlines. Since Brexit this protection has also been continued in the UK for UK airlines and destinations, but it may not cover travelling on non-UK or EU airlines to destinations outside of Europe. Be sure to check with your airline and the destination you're traveling to if you're concerned about strike action affecting your trip.

The first thing to do is contact your travel agent, tour operator or airline – there is usually information available on their websites but if in doubt give them a call.

If you have booked with a tour operator then the ATOL protection scheme is there to offer some comfort and provide either:

  • Alternative travel to your destination
  • An option to travel on the same holiday at a different date
  • A full refund

Depending upon where you are travelling to and who you are flying with you may be eligible for compensation under EU law (which has been continued post the UK leaving the EU). Enabling you to seek a full refund if your flight is cancelled because of strike action.

For related costs such as hotels, car hire, excursions, transfers and alike, it is worth contacting the provider to see what you may be eligible for. Depending upon what, if any, compensation is given you may be able to go through your travel insurance policy to recover costs for these. 

Many bank accounts and credit cards come with some level of travel insurance cover. While some may be comprehensive, they may not cover you for everything you have planned whilst you’re away, particularly if you have adventurous plans or unusual excursions booked. For example, you might not be covered for emergency medical costs you could incur if you have na accident or need medical treatment.

Make sure you look into the travel insurance policy that you have before every trip, to make sure it’s suitable for you and your plans.

Purchasing a holiday using a credit card means you are often protected by Consumer Protection cover. In most cases, it allows you to get your money returned to you if your provider defaults and you cannot travel.

If you have booked a holiday through a tour operator or travel agent, it may be worth checking if you are covered by ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) or ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s License). This type of cover means that your package holiday is protected if, for example, the travel company providing your holiday arrangements or the travel agent themselves fail financially or close down.

Your travel agents will be able to tell you if your holiday is ABTA or ATOL protected. Alternatively, use the links provided to check your cover at home.

Having a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) will entitle you to the government-provided healthcare of the European Union country you are visiting and lowering the medical expenses you would normally expect to pay.

Although this is a good addition to take on holiday, a European Health Insurance Card or Global Health Insurance Card should not be seen as a replacement for travel insurance which could provide you with further protection and peace of mind whilst you are abroad. Our travel insurance policies can protect you against many unforeseen eventualities.

Depending on the policy and level of cover you choose, your travel insurance may cover you for emergency medical expenses if you fall ill or have an accident while on holiday and require medical treatment. Your insurance policy can also help with any associated expenses or unexpected costs, and repatriation should you need help returning home.
Understanding our claims process

You'll need your policy number to submit your claim to us. This is available in your certificate of insurance which is sent to you when you take out cover. 

It's a good idea to take your policy information with you on your trip so you can provide us with all the necessary details in order for us to help.


Once we receive your claim, it'll be assessed by our experienced team. 

To speed up the assessment of your claim please make sure to include all applicable information and evidence such as receipts, booking confirmations, hotel reservations and crime reference numbers. If you fail to provide all the necessary information this will cause a delay in processing your claim. 

Once our team has assessed your claim we'll be in touch with you via your preferred contact method to confirm the outcome and inform you of any next steps.



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