Travel disruption - what is it, do I need cover and how do I cope?

Travel disruption - what is it, do I need cover and how do I cope?
Although it usually only happens from time to time, travel disruption can be a stressful, scary and often expensive experience.

Flight disruptions can occur out of the blue, strike action can last for days and stormy weather could mean your cruise of a lifetime is quite literally left at sea.

It’s important in these situations to know how best to deal with the situation, and what you could be entitled to as a result of travel disruption.

Passenger rights

Your rights as a passenger will depend on where you are flying to or from, the small print in your travel documentation, how long you were delayed and your travel insurance policy. If the disruption has been caused by your airline or cruise ship operator, you could also be entitled to financial compensation.

Flight delay compensation

If your flight has been delayed by more than three hours you can usually claim financial support from your airline. The amount you can claim will depend on the distance of the flight and the time you were delayed. For example, a journey of over 3,500 km that has been delayed for more than four hours could give you €600 [AB1] in compensation.

You will also be entitled to the following:

  • Refreshments and meals
  • Two free phone calls
  • Accommodation if you have been delayed overnight
  • Transport back to the airport if you have been delayed overnight

Passengers delayed by five hours or more have the right to cancel their flight and receive a full refund. It is worth noting that if your flight is delayed by circumstances outside the airline’s control, such as bad weather, civil unrest or airport closure, you will not be entitled to extra financial compensation.

Cancelled flight, what are my rights?

There can be few things worse than reaching the airport only to be told your flight has been cancelled. If this is the case, your airline is obligated to help you, and you have the right to a full refund if you decide not to travel.

If you decide you still want to get to your destination, you are entitled to take alternative travel to or close to your destination. RAC travel insurance policies include cancellation cover as standard so don’t forget to arrange suitable travel disruption insurance before you leave home.

I missed my flight, what now?

Held up by public transport strikes, a road accident or problems with your vehicle? Don’t panic - RAC can cover you for a missed departure, but it is a good idea to read your policy wording so you know what documentation we will need to support your claim.

Checking public transport connections, ensuring your car is roadworthy and being clear about connecting flight times will help you to avoid missed departures.

10% off RAC Travel Insurance**

For RAC Members and RAC Car Insurance customers travelling worldwide.

10% off RAC Travel Insurance**
10% off RAC Travel Insurance**

ATOL Protected, what does it mean?

If you have booked your trip with an ATOL protected Travel Company, that’s great news. It means you are covered should your travel company go out of business because you are due to travel.

This has happened to many travellers in the past, often without warning and sometimes when they are already on holiday, leaving them stranded for many days.

The following items are covered if you book with an ATOL protected travel operator:

  • Package holidays booked directly with the travel operator or through a travel agency
  • Flights, accommodation and car hire booked separately, but on the same or next day with your travel operator
  • Flights booked with an ATOL tour operator for which you don’t receive tickets immediately

You can ask your ATOL protected Travel Company to send a copy of an ATOL certificate. We recommend that you carry this with you along with your other essential travel documents.

Travel disruption insurance

As we mentioned at the start of our article, serious travel delays and disruption are actually quite rare, but it pays to be prepared for the unexpected. RAC Travel Insurance offers three levels of cover plus a range of optional travel options that give you the highest level of protection for your trip.

If you're travelling to Europe and looking to drive during your trip, then the RAC offers European breakdown cover to give you complete peace of mind if your vehicle breaks down, even during a one-off trip.

READ MORE: A fifth of motorists suffer car sickness - how to reduce nausea

* You must have a standalone RAC Breakdown policy or RAC Car Insurance policy and provide your membership or policy number at the time of purchase to qualify for the 10% discount. RAC Travel Insurance must be purchased directly from us and this discount is not available on price comparison websites. The discount will not apply to premiums for pre-existing medical conditions or extended gadget cover. The offer can be withdrawn or amended at any time.