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From the MD's Desk: When Strikes Affect Your Travel Plans

A British Airways pilots’ strike could disrupt thousands of summer holidays in August and September. Ryanair cabin crew are planning to go on strike for 5 days (21-25 August) but hopefully an agreement will have been reached before that happens.

Heathrow employees were set to go on strike today (5 August) but fortunately that has been put on hold and BA has reinstated its full schedule for today – however as things stand, according to the BBC the strike will still be happening tomorrow.

It’s one thing to be delayed on your way to a land-based holiday but missing a cruise departure because of delayed or cancelled flights is a serious concern. As one Times reader pointed out, ATOL protection covers package holidays but probably won’t cover a missed cruise if that was booked separately.

What can we do to protect our holidays, what can travel insurance cover, and what are we entitled to from the airlines involved? Our MD, Kate Huet, explains what’s what.


As with most things, what you pay for is what you get. My first words of advice are to check you have travel delay and disruption within your policy – this is an optional extra within many policies.

Next, be aware that once a strike date is announced, it is not possible to insure for what would be a known event, it is only possible to insure if there is no reasonable expectation that your journey would be delayed.

You cannot therefore buy a policy today for travel from Heathrow airport tomorrow and expect that your travel insurance will cover you for tomorrow’s strike action.

The best thing to do is always to buy your insurance as soon as you book your trip. This way you are covered for this type of eventuality (unless strike action has already been announced).

When strikes are on the cards, it can be nerve-wracking for anyone who has a holiday coming up. We all hope that the issues will be resolved, but the reality is that it’s entirely possible our flights will be affected.


Regulations and Airline Obligations

In September 2018 a 24-hour Ryanair strike resulted in 150 flights being cancelled. Passengers affected were offered the options of transferring to an alternate Ryanair flight at no extra cost, requesting a full refund, or transferring to a flight with another airline if no suitable Ryanair alternative was available.

There was no compensation for delays or other related expenses though from the airline, and if another strike goes ahead the situation will most likely be the same.

According to EU regulations, if at least 14 days’ notice of the strike is given, the airline does not have to provide compensation.

When the September 2018 strike was announced, Ryanair said: "Under EU261 legislation, no compensation is payable to customers when the (strike) delay/cancellation is beyond the airline’s control. If these strikes, by a tiny minority of Ryanair crew, were within Ryanair’s control, there would be no strikes and no cancellations.”


What does your travel insurance cover?

Every policy is different so read your policy wording carefully. If you do have cover for delays and cancellations, it usually applies only to unexpected events and incidents. It would not cover planned strike action if you purchased your policy after the strike action had been announced.

Onestop4 travel insurance will allow you to cancel your trip if strike action creates a delay of greater than 24 hours on your outbound flight.

If you are delayed due to strike action for less than 24 hours, then after 2 hours delay we will arrange access to an airport lounge (by calling 01689 892253) or alternatively you may opt to claim £50 to cover out of pocket expenses.

Tomorrow’s strike is caused by Heathrow Airport workers and not the airlines - this means that the airlines are not obliged under EU travel regulations to apply compensation. This falls under the “exceptional circumstances” rule, which recognises it is beyond the control of the airlines.


Should I book another ticket?

First you should speak to your airline, they may be able to route you to avoid the strike action – e.g. Virgin are transferring flights to depart from Gatwick not Heathrow for tomorrow.

Airlines may be able to offer you alternative dates or if feasible, depending on your destination, transfer your flight ticket into rail or bus ticketing. If something big like a cruise depends on your arrival date and time and you’d rather be safe than sorry, you may want to book another flight from a different airport. But remember that if the strike is called off and your original flight goes ahead, you won’t be able to get a refund for the extra flight.

If you’re off on a beach holiday or can be a little flexible with departure and landing times, you will most probably be ok with a replacement flight from your original carrier or they may arrange a different flight with an alternative carrier.

If you do decide to wait and see what happens, you should make sure your hotel is ok with a later arrival and that arrangements for airport shuttles and other bookings won’t be a problem. You should act on the advice of the airline with whom you are travelling because if you make your own arrangements without their agreement, then any additional costs may not be refunded by your airline or your travel insurer. Unless specifically advised otherwise, you must turn up for check-in at the airport on time.

If you opt to be transferred to another flight you may be placed on waiting lists, and if there is a strike there will probably be general delays afterwards too as airplanes may be out of position, so make sure you pack enough medication in your carry-on luggage to last a lot longer than the standard travel time.