Travel disruption insurance cover

Travel disruption cover compensates you for missed departures, unused travel and accommodation, and enforced stays.

Kim Jones
Kim Jones
Updated 22 March 2023  | 4 mins read
Reviewed by Jasmine Hembury

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What’s travel disruption insurance?

It’s the part of a travel insurance policy that can compensate you if your trip is interrupted, cut short or otherwise affected by certain events or emergency situations outside of your control.

For example, if public transport breaks down on the way to the airport and you miss your flight. Or if you can’t stay in the hotel you’ve booked or can’t get home due to a natural disaster.

It can cover the cost of the parts of your holiday that you can’t use, including flights, accommodation and land transfers. It can also reimburse reasonable additional costs you incur because of whatever’s affected your trip - things like alternative hotel expenses, public transport costs, meals or refreshments.

Standard travel insurance protects you for cancellation and curtailment, but it may not include cover for certain emergencies and unexpected situations.

This is where disruption cover steps in. If it’s not already included in your policy, you can usually pay to add it as an optional extra.

Key points

  • Disruption cover might be included as standard on your travel insurance, or available as an added extra
  • All policies differ, so watch out for exclusions like terrorism or ash clouds
  • Your airline may cover cancelled flights, while your tour operator or travel insurance should cover the rest of your holiday

What does it cover?

What exactly is covered will depend on the insurer, so check your policy documents.

But this type of insurance can cover your costs if something happens that means:

  • You’re delayed
  • You have to abandon your holiday
  • You miss your departure
  • You’re forced to stay at your destination for longer than your original holiday period

What’s usually covered?

You can expect to be protected against situations that arise outside of your control and that affect your holiday, including:

  • Public transport failure, traffic accidents or breakdowns resulting in delays or a missed departure
  • Extreme adverse weather like a hurricane, storm or flood
  • Industrial action
  • A natural catastrophe such as fire, earthquake, avalanche, tsunami, hurricane, volcanic eruption and ash clouds
  • A food poisoning or infectious disease outbreak
  • Civil commotion or unrest
  • Explosion
  • Closure of airspace, an airport, roads, rail services, a port or the Channel Tunnel
  • The accommodation or transport provider going bust
  • Cancellation, delay for at least a certain amount of time (usually over 12 hours) of your booked transport, or if you’re diverted after take-off
  • You’re denied boarding and offered no suitable alternative travel within a certain period of time

What’s not covered?

  • Any costs you can recover from your airline, accommodation and travel provider or credit card provider
  • An event like a strike or adverse weather that was announced publicly before you bought your travel insurance
  • Loss of enjoyment - you’re not covered if you didn’t have a good time on your break because of things like poor weather
  • Missing your flight, ferry or train because you didn’t allow enough time to get there
  • Any claim arising from a car breakdown where you hadn’t adequately maintained your vehicle
  • Delays in security or customs which resulted in you missing your transport
  • A claim where you can’t provide evidence of your loss
  • Any costs you’ve incurred where the transport operator offered you alternative travel arrangements within the time frame of the policy’s delay period

Why might I need this type of cover?

It all depends on how you booked your holiday.

If you bought a package holiday with a travel agent or tour operator, then you’ll usually be financially protected if things don’t go to plan on your trip or if the airline or accommodation provider goes bust (look for ATOL or ABTA protection). Under their compensation schemes, you can expect to be provided with a replacement holiday. Or they’ll rearrange accommodation and travel for you or refund the total cost of your holiday.

However, if you book your flights and accommodation separately, then you may not have this type of protection if things don’t go to plan.

This is where travel disruption cover can step in. It can help when you can’t recover costs from your accommodation or travel providers or your credit card company.

One other thing to remember is that if you paid for your holiday using a credit card, you could be covered under the Consumer Credit Act if the holiday company goes bust.

Claiming compensation when your travel plans are affected

If you’re using a European airline within Europe, go to your airline first of all for delayed or cancelled flights - it has a duty to help you under European law.

For cancelled or delayed ferry trips, get in touch with the operator to see what it can do.

Next, contact your travel agent or accommodation provider.

Your travel disruption cover can reimburse you for other elements of your holiday not covered by your airline, accommodation or travel agent.

You’ll need to keep receipts and give your provider proof of the circumstances that caused your travel plans to go awry.

For example, if you missed a departure because your car broke down on the way to the airport, they may want to see evidence of your car’s service history and MOT certificate, plus confirmation that you received breakdown assistance.

If you were delayed by public transport, then your insurer will want evidence of the circumstances from the company involved.

Travel insurance and natural disasters

A natural disaster like an earthquake, wildfire, tsunami, flood, landslide or volcanic eruption could wreak havoc on your holiday.

Not all standard travel insurance policies will cover claims related to natural disasters, so you’ll need to check your documents.

Adding on trip disruption cover to your policy can mean you’re covered for these types of events. It can pay out to help with any costs you incur from having to change or cancel your plans because of the natural catastrophe.

So, for example, if your hotel is rendered uninhabitable because of a flood, the policy could cover alternative accommodation costs. Travel expenses can also be included, plus things like emergency evacuation and the cost of getting you back to the UK.

If you’re travelling anywhere that’s known to be affected by natural disasters, make sure you check your insurance policy covers you against them.

You should always check Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advice before heading off.

Travelling against FCDO advice will invalidate your policy.

Am I covered against adverse weather?

Most policies will cover delays or cancelled flights due to extreme weather events like storms, blizzards, floods or hurricanes.

That’s as long as the adverse weather event wasn’t forecast and publicly announced in the media before you took out the policy. Insurance doesn’t cover so-called ‘known’ or ‘anticipated’ events.

And you can’t claim if you simply didn’t enjoy your holiday because the weather was bad.

Am I covered for volcanic ash?

Since the eruption of an Icelandic volcano in 2010 where an ash cloud grounded thousands of flights and closed airspace, many insurers offer protection against this kind of event affecting your holiday. It often won’t be included as standard and you may have to pay extra.

Not all insurers will pay out for delays or cancellations due to volcanic ash, though. So be sure to check your policy wording and exclusions.

Does travel disruption cover Covid-19?

Some travel policies cover cancellation due to a positive test or if you need treatment for Covid-19 while abroad. But only a handful of policies will provide cover if a UK lockdown means you can’t travel, or the FCDO changes its travel advice after you’ve booked your trip.

What other assistance can I claim for?

If an unforeseen emergency covered by your policy affected your holiday and you had to cancel or cut it short, your policy may reimburse you for things like unused excursions, and kennel, cattery or professional pet sitter fees you can’t get back.

Some policies even offer ‘flight delay assistance’ whereby, if your flight is delayed by more than an hour, you can access an airport lounge to relax in while you wait. Many lounges offer complimentary refreshments, charging stations and free wi-fi.

You usually need to register the flight with your insurance provider to get this service – check your policy documents to see exactly how to do this.

How to protect yourself with travel insurance

Get travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked your holiday so you’re covered in case you need to cancel your trip beforehand.

If you want to protect yourself from unexpected emergencies that could affect your trip, check your policy includes travel disruption cover. If it doesn’t you could buy it as an add-on.

While catastrophes may be rare events and you’ll hopefully enjoy a holiday with no hiccups, this type of cover can ensure you’re not left out of pocket if your trip doesn’t go to plan.

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