The recent chaos involving a drone at Gatwick airport caused some 1,000 flights to be cancelled and ruined the travel plans of around 140,000 passengers. But while the drone incident was unprecedented in its nature, it highlights how even the best-laid plans can be severely interrupted by totally unexpected circumstances.
It is a situation that also highlights why having travel insurance is so important. However, as many passengers caught up in the drone disarray at Gatwick recently discovered, not all travel insurance is created equal.
Reminiscent of the 2010 volcanic ash cloud crisis, the Gatwick drone affair is being treated by the Civil Aviation Authority as “an extraordinary circumstance”. As a result, many passengers have been denied refunds on their travel insurance because they bought the wrong type or they purchased it too late.
First and foremost, because the incident has been labelled “an extraordinary circumstance”, no extra compensation – which is normally paid under EU rules if a delay is the fault of an airline – will be paid.
Nevertheless, airlines and tour operators do still have a duty of care to passengers impacted by such circumstances. That means airlines must, under EU rules, look after passengers by covering the cost of basic food and drink needs, as well as hotel accommodation in the event of an overnight delay, until they are on an alternative flight, or offer a full refund.
However, the airline’s duty of care ends should a passenger choose the refund option. So, if an individual opts for a refund and then books another flight that is more expensive, they are unlikely to have the difference reimbursed.
How Does Travel Insurance Come Into Play?
In the first instance, passengers should contact the airline they are travelling with, or the tour operator they booked with, to make a claim. Should any costs incurred due to the disruption not be picked up by the airline, passengers will then need to turn to their travel insurance.
It is important to note though that some travel insurance policies only cover medical emergencies and do not reimburse for disruption. Others have only modest limits for disruption that may not cover the total cost of the situation. That’s why it is important to fully understand exactly what you are buying and what it covers to avoid any unnecessary stress and financial losses later.
Following the Gatwick drone incident, Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, urged insurers to treat people “reasonably” and honour claims. He met with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) to discuss the plight of affected passengers.
Speaking about the situation, Mark Shepherd, head of general insurance policy at the ABI, said: “Where customers have bought travel insurance which includes cover for disruption they will be able to claim in the usual way.”
While rare, situations like the one involving a drone at Gatwick highlight why travel insurance is so important. If you’re going away in the near future, we’d be happy to discuss your requirements and ensure you get a policy that’s right for you.
Contact us about individual and family travel insurance options today!
Tom is the Sales Director for Premier Choice Group. In his role, Tom oversee’s growth across all areas of the business while maintaining a small number of his own clients. At Premier Choice, Tom and the team deliver a unique, personal service to every client, while growing the business and maintaining a strong reputation as the UK’s best intermediary.