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Delays and missed departure cover - check the small print

11th August 2014 Print

Every year, some unlucky travellers are reduced to camping out in airport lounges waiting for delayed flights due to strikes, industrial action or adverse weather conditions while others miss their departure following a major accident blocking the motorway.  While most travel policies provide some cover for these situations, it varies greatly, so it is well worth checking your policy before you travel.
Pay-outs for missed or delayed departures or for travel abandonment following extended delays are intended to cover only some of the extra ‘reasonable’ expenses you may incur as a result of the delay, abandonment or missed departure (for example for food and drink while you are sitting out a flight delay) rather than compensate you for your time.
Delayed departure:  Most (79%) policies provide some cover within the first 12 hours of a delayed departure.  However pay-outs range widely from £10 to £400, with the bulk of policies that offer cover, (69%) providing between £20 and £35 for each insured person.  21% of policies don’t provide cover for delayed departure in the first 12 hours.  The majority of policies (80%) make a further pay out for each further 12 hour delay, with pay outs ranging from £10 to £400 for each insured person.
Generally policies cap the total amount they will pay out for delayed departure – but it can range from £60 to £5,000.  The minimum period of delay before a claim can be made is typically 12 hours, but can vary with a few policies paying out after a delay of 5 or 8 hours.
Travel abandonment: Most policies (84%) offer some cover for abandoning your holiday following an extended delay (typically 12-to-24 hours) caused by the same factors as travel delay.  You will be required to have checked in by the recommended time and will need to provide an official written statement confirming the reason for the delay and its duration.  You may also be required to submit unused travel tickets and vouchers in support of your claim.
The amount you can claim will be listed in your policy schedule, less any excess which may apply and will take into account costs you get back from other sources.  If you claim for travel abandonment, you will usually not also be able to make a claim for delayed departure.
The cover for travel abandonment ranges widely with some policies limited to pay outs of £500 while a couple provide cover of £20,000. This benefit is designed to help you recoup costs you have paid or are contracted to pay for unused travel and accommodation expenses including any pre-paid excursions, tours or activities.  
Missed departure: If you miss your departure because of public transport failure, poor weather conditions, a major accident on the motorway or your car broke down on the way to the airport, then you may be able to claim for ‘extra reasonable costs for travel and accommodation’.  In making a claim you will usually need to demonstrate that you did everything in your power to make the departure and you will probably need to provide your insurer with supporting evidence.  Most (81%) policies provide missed departure cover with pay-outs ranging from £150 to £5,000.
Caroline Lloyd from Travel Insurance commented, “While the insurance cover provided for upsets to your travel plans can never fully compensate you for your lost holiday time, it may at least cover the cost of food and drink while you’re waiting to take off or set sail.  There is a wide variation in the level of cover offered by different policies so you’ll need to check your policy wording for limits, excesses and any terms and conditions.  In particular, when making a claim, insurers will require you to provide written proof from an official source as evidence of the delay or reason for you missing your scheduled departure time.  For example, if you’re involved in an accident on the way to the airport you will probably need to supply them with a police accident report.       
“It’s also important to remember that you can’t insure against potential disruption to your holiday plans that you were already aware of such as a publically announced airline strike or industrial action.  So, we always recommend people arrange their travel insurance as soon as they book their holiday rather than leaving it until just before they travel.”