Cancelled flights: When is it the airline's responsibility and when can travel insurance help?

People often get confused over the protection and rights they have when an airline cancels their flight and the cancellation cover provided by their travel insurance.

Here's our simple guide to explain how it works;

If the AIRLINE cancels your flight it is their responsibility to offer you an alternative or provide you with a full refund.

If YOU cancel your flight, the airline doesn't have to offer you a refund (check their terms and conditions) and you may be able to claim on your travel insurance.

If YOU need to cancel your flight: What does travel insurance cover?

Most travel insurance policies will include some level of cancellation cover (you can choose to exclude cancellation cover to save money or because you are travelling imminently).

Cancellation cover means that if you need to cancel your holiday for an insured reason, usually illness of yourself or a close family member, redundancy, being summoned for jury service or your home becoming inhabitable, you would be able to make a claim to recoup the cost of trip. You should read the terms and conditions of your policy for full details.

Travel insurance policies will specify a maximum amount you can claim, you should compare this with the cost of your holiday when you are choosing a travel insurance policy.

For instance offers three levels of travel insurance, each offering different amounts of cancellation cover, Silver up to £1000 per person, Gold up to £3000 per person and Platinum up to £7500 per person.

To get the full benefit of the cancellation cover you should buy travel insurance as soon as you've booked your holiday, to ensure that the money you've paid is protected.

Travel insurance is designed to provide cover for the unexpected, so as soon as you become aware of something which may cause you to cancel your holiday it is too late to buy insurance.

What are your rights if your AIRLINE cancels your flight?

When you book flights you have a contract with your airline to get you to certain destination at a certain time, if they are unable to do that they have a legal duty to offer you a full refund or provide an alternative flight.

Flights departing/arriving in the UK from the EU

These regulations apply to all those departing from EU airports as well as those arriving at an EU airport on an EU airline.

If your airline cancels your flight you are entitled to:

  • A full refund of the parts of the ticket not used


  • You can choose an alternative flight reach to your final destination as soon as possible, or an alternative flight to your final destination at a later date which suits you. This should include a transfer to the original airport, or another close by destination of your choice.
  • You may also be entitled to compensation if your flight was cancelled less than 14 days before you were due to fly.

Please note: Despite the UK's departure from the EU, the regulations continue to apply to flights departing from the UK to EU member states and to flights arriving in the UK from EU member states.

Flights arriving/departing the UK from non-EU destinations
For flights departing from the UK to non-EU destinations and flights arriving in the UK from non-EU destinations, you still have rights and protections under UK CAA regulations. The UK has adopted similar rules to the EU for these flights, but there may be some differences.

Flights outside of the UK and EU

Your rights if a non-EU airline cancels your flight will vary according to the terms and conditions of your contract with the airline. The majority of airlines will have a contractual obligation to offer you a full refund or provide an alternative flight it they cancel your original flight.

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