The UK has been gripped by travel chaos since Easter, with major ferry disruption, rail strikes and airport queues creating misery for thousands of holidaymakers.
Travellers are set to be hit even harder in the coming weeks, as ongoing EasyJet strikes in Spain and planned industrial action by British Airways staff are both likely to cause major disruption.
As if this situation wasn’t bad enough, a rise in Covid cases could also derail some people’s getaway plans.
While you have some rights if your flight gets cancelled or delayed, you might have to fall back on your travel insurance if the cancellation is down to strikes or Covid.
However, new research by consumer watchdog Which? has found major disparities in the level of cover being offered by insurers.
So what did Which? find - and what kind of cover do leading travel insurance providers offer for strikes and Covid?
Here’s what you need to know.
What did Which? travel insurance research find?
Consumer group Which? analysed 199 travel insurance policies from 71 providers between May and June to see what level of cover they offered.
With the big themes of the summer being strikes and Covid, the organisation said many holidaymakers “could be left disappointed”.
While most policies it looked at covered expenses for delays, lost or delayed luggage and cancellation claims, it found wording around delays meant a substantial number of policies did not fully cover strike action or staff shortages.
Which? found 60% of the policies they analysed covered cancellation due to industrial action - meaning 40% either offered limited or no cover for the eventuality.
For Covid, Which? rated 30% of the policies as offering ‘basic’ or ‘low’ Covid cover.
It means the policies would only kick in when the policyholder personally became ill with Covid or tested positive for it, rather than covering scenarios which could disrupt your holiday plans, such as having to self-isolate if you’ve been a close contact of a positive case.
What to check in your travel insurance policy
Which? has provided several tips for checking what eventualities your travel insurance policy covers you for.
Before you purchase cover, it recommends:
- Checking the ‘policy wording document’: this describes the cover and terms you’re agreeing to and should be made available to you before you sign up with an insurer.
- Phone the insurer: Which? says you should contact the provider to discuss any unclear wording in the document which could be of concern to you. They can explain how the cover works, as well as what’s excluded from it.
- Check what the ‘Specified Risks’ or ‘Specified Perils’ are included: insurance policies can contain specific scenarios for which you’ll be covered. You’re unlikely to be insured for anything outside of these events.
Which major holiday insurers cover strike delays?
Most major insurers have policies about strikes and Covid, but the wording they use means the cover on offer can vary dramatically.
NationalWorld has taken a look at some of the wording major insurers use about airport delays caused by strike action in their standard policies.
- Post Office: covers delays caused by ‘industrial action’ and ‘shortage of crew’.
- StaySure: delays that were ‘a direct result of strike or industrial action’ are included (staff shortages aren’t mentioned).
- Admiral: ‘strike’ or ‘industrial action’ are covered if they cause delayed departure or holiday abandonment.
- Aviva: the policy says it covers flight delays of more than 12 hours after you’ve checked in, but doesn’t mention cover for industrial action, meaning it’s worth checking with Aviva to see whether or not it’s covered.
- Allianz: delayed departure is covered if industrial action has caused it, but only if you booked your trip and took out your policy before the strikes began, or were announced
- Nationwide: the policy doesn’t mention cover for industrial action, meaning it’s worth checking with Nationwide to see whether or not it’s covered.
It’s worth checking what provision is included for strikes abroad, given the industrial action that’s taking place among EasyJey crew in Spain.
Given Covid can cover a broad range of scenarios that cannot be covered in one article, we recommend reading through your policy documents to see what is or isn’t included under your insurer’s basic cover.
NationalWorld has an explainer here, which looks at what you could be entitled to if you miss your flight due to Covid.