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Will your travel insurer cover your holiday against Brexit flight disruption?

Will your travel insurer cover your holiday against Brexit flight disruption?

Holidaymakers with travel insurance policies from at least seven major firms may not be covered for hotel, car hire and other costs if they have to cancel their trip because of Brexit-related flight disruption, MoneySavingExpert.com can reveal. If you're worried, check your policy now – and if you do want cover for disruption, you need to sort it now or risk not being able to get it.

At the moment we don't know if the UK will be leaving the European Union on Friday 29 March with or without a deal in place – and it's impossible to say for sure whether there'll be disruption to flights. The Government's official guidance says flights "should" continue as normal even if there's no deal, but airline trade body the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned some may be cancelled.

To check what protection holidaymakers have, we asked 16 of the biggest travel insurers what would happen if you've booked hotels, car hire and other elements of a holiday now for a trip after 29 March, and you end up unable to go because your flight is cancelled or severely delayed due to Brexit-related problems.

  • Four firms told us all customers would be covered for costs arising from Brexit flight disruption: Admiral, Aviva, Direct Line and Saga.

  • Seven insurers said some customers would be covered and some wouldn't. Axa, Allianz, Coverwise and Halifax told us only those with 'travel disruption' cover would be able to claim. LV and Nationwide said those with more basic policies wouldn't be able to claim, but some customers with a higher level of cover would be. Holidaysafe said the majority of its policies would cover customers.

  • Two insurers said customers WOULDN'T be covered. Debenhams and Leisure Guard said their policies only pay out if flights are delayed due to specific causes such as strikes – and Brexit isn't one of those causes.
  • Three other insurers were unable to give any specific guarantee that customers would be covered. Co-op told us only that Brexit-related claims would be handled on a "case-by-case basis", while Legal & General and the Post Office declined to give any specific comment on whether customers would be covered. 

It's also worth noting some other insurers' cheaper policies don't cover you for any form of cancellation, whether Brexit-related or not.

Even those firms that will cover you for Brexit-related disruption have warned that won't be the case if you take out a policy after post-Brexit delays become a "known event" – for instance, if the Government decides to push ahead with a no-deal Brexit and there are official forecasts of delays. So if you have a holiday booked and want cover for Brexit-related disruption, you need to sort it now.

For full help on travel insurance including our current best buys, see our Cheap Travel Insurance guide. And for a rundown of what Brexit means for mortgages, currency, your rights and more, see our 25 Brexit need-to-knows.

Why might Brexit cause travel disruption?

If the UK leaves the EU with a deal in place, most of our current relationship with Europe will continue until the end of 2020, so there almost certainly won't be any flight disruption. But it's by no means certain we will leave with a deal – and if we don't, the situation's less clear.

The Government's official line today is that flights "should" continue as normal under a no-deal Brexit, as the UK and EU want flights to go on without disruption. But there are no certainties – and a Government paper released last year warned "there could be disruption to some flights". 

The IATA has also warned that up to five million extra seats are scheduled for 2019 compared with 2018, to meet consumer demand, and has said "these are at risk" due to ticket caps that would come into play in the event of no deal, which would stop ticket numbers exceeding those from last year.

Of course, much is up in the air with Brexit, and any sort of prediction about what could happen after 29 March is subject to change. See our 25 Brexit need-to-knows for more. 

Which insurers will cover you for Brexit disruption?

If there is travel disruption post-Brexit, you won't necessarily have to rely on your insurer. You'd be able to get a refund for your flight from your airline, and package holidays will likely be covered by tour operators – see full info on other protection for Brexit disruption below.

But to check what protection insurers give – particularly for those who may have booked flights and accommodation, car hire etc separately – we went to 16 major firms.

We asked whether consequential losses such as hotel costs would be covered if you were to have a holiday booked now and your flight was then cancelled or severely delayed due to Brexit-related causes, meaning you couldn't make your holiday. Here's what they told us (remember, for the exact level of cover you'll get, always check the small print of your policy):

Brexit disruption – will insurers cover cancelled hotels, car hire etc if flights are severely delayed or cancelled?

Insurer Are you covered? What the insurer says
Admiral Yes You'll likely be covered for "irrecoverable" costs you have to pay if you abandon your trip if your flight's cancelled or delayed for more than 24 hours
Allianz Depends on your policy Allianz says customer will be covered if their policy includes travel delay or disruption cover. It also added the following statement: "In any Brexit circumstance and irrespective of the date of purchase of any travel insurance policy underwritten by Allianz Partners it will remain valid subject to its existing terms and conditions."
Aviva Yes If your flight's cancelled or delayed for more than 24 hours you can abandon your trip and you'll be covered for non-recoverable costs. You'll also get £25 for every 12 hours you're delayed
Axa Only if your policy covers 'travel disruption' It depends on your policy. If you have 'travel disruption', or if the cancellation section of your policy document mentions there is cover for cancelling your holiday if your flights are cancelled, you'll be covered for expenses such as independently booked hotels if you cancel due to a cancelled flight. Whether you're covered if there's a delay depends on the exact terms of your policy. Without 'travel disruption' cover, you won't be able to claim
Co-op Not guaranteed Brexit-related disruption will be covered on a "case-by-case basis"
Coverwise Only if your policy covers 'travel disruption'

It depends on your policy – with the 'travel disruption' add-on on its Silver, Gold or Platinum polices you'll be able to claim for your unused travel, accommodation and other prepaid charges if you have to cancel your trip as a result of a flight delay of at least five hours. Without 'travel disruption' cover, you won't be able to claim 
Debenhams No Its policies cover only delays or cancellations relating to specific issues – ie, strike or industrial action, adverse weather and mechanical breakdown or technical fault of the aircraft. Anything due to other causes isn't covered
Direct Line Yes Customers will be covered for unrecoverable costs resulting from a flight not running or being delayed for more than 12 hours
Halifax Only if your policy covers 'travel disruption'

It depends on your policy. With 'travel disruption', or if the cancellation section of your policy document mentions there is cover for cancelling your holiday if your flights are cancelled, you'll be covered for expenses such as independently booked hotels if you cancel due to a cancelled flight. Whether you're covered if there's a delay depends on the exact terms of your policy. Without 'travel disruption' cover, you won't be able to claim

Holidaysafe Depends on your policy Holidaysafe says the majority of its policies offer cover if you decide to abandon your travel plans, following a 24 hour delay and offer money for every 12 hours you're delayed. Its Platinum Single and Multi Trip policies also provide cover for customers to cancel their trip if anything unexpected and/or unforeseen occurs.
Legal & General Not guaranteed Declined to comment on whether it would be covering customers for Brexit-related disruption
Leisure Guard No Travellers are covered for strike or industrial action, adverse weather, and mechanical breakdown or technical fault of an aircraft. Leisure Guard told us it doesn't provide cover for other scenarios and added: "Brexit itself is not an 'insured peril' so therefore there is no cover if this is the sole and independent reason for any delay"
LV Only if you have its 'Premier' policy LV's Premier policy provides cover for cancelled holiday costs if, as a result of delay to your transport for more than 24 hours, you decide to cancel your trip. If you have a less premium policy, you won't be covered
Nationwide Only with certain policies With a FlexPlus or Flex account with travel disruption cover, you are covered. If your flight's delayed or cancelled and you can't get an alternative flight within six hours for trips of four nights or less (or 12 hours for trips of five nights or more), you can abandon your trip and claim for accommodation and other losses already paid for. You won't be covered if you have the Flex account and don't have the upgrade
Post Office Not guaranteed It says it's "monitoring" Brexit negotiations, but couldn't give us any detailed info on whether customers are covered
Saga Yes If unable to travel due to something "unforeseen" happening (which wasn't known at the time you booked the trip and insurance) you will be covered

'If you want to be sure you're covered, act now'

Guy Anker, deputy editor of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "We always say to get travel insurance as soon as you've booked to cover for all eventualities – and this highlights just how important that message is.

“It's worth noting not all policies cover you for cancellation or disruption, whether due to Brexit, bad weather or something else. Yet if you specifically want Brexit-related cover, check you're really getting it and buy ASAP. If you already have a policy, it's worth checking with your insurer if you'd be covered if you're going away soon after 29 March."

What other protection do I have?

It's not all down to your travel insurer if there's a problem – you may also have other protection depending on how you booked if you're hit by Brexit disruption: 

  • With package holidays, the tour operator should give you a full refund. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has told us if you booked a package holiday and the flight is delayed enough to make a "signifcant change" to your travel plans, you'll be entitled to cancel your holiday and get a refund for the cost of the package from the tour operator.

    What counts as a "significant change" depends on the holiday's length. ABTA says a delay of more than 12 hours on a 14-night holiday will be a significant change – a shorter delay involving a significant reduction in time spent at a destination could be considered significant for a weekend break.

  • With 'DIY packages' you MAY get package-holiday protection. With DIY packages – where you select elements of the holiday separately via the same website (or shop or call centre) – you may get protection, but it depends on when you made the purchases and whether it was in the same transaction. See our Holiday Rights guide for more info.
     
  • You should be able to claim for your flight from the airline. Funnily enough, this is due to an EU flight delay law known as EU261 – but the Government's told us that this will be copied into UK law after we leave the EU, so it will still apply. If your flight's cancelled or you're delayed more than five hours, you can get a refund from the airline regardless of cause. See our Flight Delays guide for more info. 

    With flight delays you can normally also claim compensation of up to £530 per person – but unfortunately, it's "very unlikely" that passengers will be able to claim compensation for flights that are delayed or cancelled due to Brexit, because the delay will likely be judged outside the airline's control. 

Book your insurance NOW to ensure you're covered

We always tell travellers to make sure they get insurance ASAB (as soon as you've booked) to protect against cancellation and pre-trip illness.

But it's particularly important in this case as a number of the insurers that said customers would be covered right now for Brexit disruption warned that would only remain the case while Brexit-related delays are considered "unforeseen".

For example, LV told us: "If there's a no-deal Brexit and travel disruptions are reported in the media, the disruption becomes a 'known event'. So if you book a trip or buy a new policy after that time, any Brexit-related travel disruption claims won't be covered by us."

Admiral has a similar policy, saying customers would be covered "in the absence of an official announcement that we will be leaving the EU without a deal in place".

Right now, the Government is generally saying Brexit-related delays shouldn't happen. But with the current political uncertainty, this could change at any moment. If it does and you look for travel insurance after, you may not be able to get the cover you need. See our Cheap Travel Insurance guide for more info and our current top picks.