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Will a travel insurance policy cover airline strikes?

Daniel Walker
Licensed Insurance Agent for 15 Years

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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Will a travel insurance policy cover airline strikes?Of all the things that can possibly interrupt our travel plans, an airline strike can be one of the most annoying and frustrating. So what if an airline strike interrupts your plans; do you have any recourse?

You may, if you happen to have travel insurance which provides coverage in case of an airline strike. In order to make sure your policy does, there are a few things you need to know.

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First, don’t ever assume you’re covered. Travel insurance is meant to cover unexpected events that delay, cancel, or interrupt a trip. Whether or not an airline strike is an expected event depends on when the travel was booked in relation to the start of the strike. It can be a sticky situation that is often disputed by insurance provider and customer.

How can the insurance company consider an airline strike to be an expected event?

Because travel insurance only covers the unexpected, it’s important to know the state of an airline before booking tickets. If there is any hint that pilots, ground crews, or flight attendants may consider striking, or taking a vote to strike, an insurance provider will look at any subsequent strike as an expected event. They consider it such because travelers should have known of the possibility of the strike before it happened.

If you plan to fly on Airline X for example, and you see a news report two days prior saying the pilots are considering a strike vote, the risk is now publicly known and travel insurance companies will classify that as an expected event. Booking with that airline means you’ll be assuming any risk on your own. In such a case, you’re better off choosing another airline.

Isn’t the airline required to get me to my destination regardless of a strike?

While it is true that airlines are required to honor reservations and get passengers to their destinations, how they accomplish this during a strike is not set in stone. They will provide you with reservations on another airline, but they can’t promise timely flights to get you to your destination at the time, or on the day, originally planned.

If you experience flight delays due to a strike, they can disrupt other plans you have made with a cruise line or tour in group. The sensitive nature of cruise and tour schedules exacerbates the problem when flights are delayed. But this is why we have travel insurance.

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Does travel insurance cover the expenses incurred by an airline strike?

In almost every case, even a basic travel insurance policy will cover delays caused by an airline strike. If you are scheduled to return home when a strike occurs, you should be able to receive a daily stipend to cover your living expenses such as food, hotels, and necessary transportation. The amount of the daily stipend will be different from policy to policy. Your policy may even pay for you to return home via another form of transportation should you decide to go that route.

In cases like the previously mentioned cruise, if an airline strike prevents you from getting to the port city before the ship to departs, most travel insurance policies will reimburse the cost of the trip. However, it’s important for travelers to read and understand their travel insurance policy thoroughly. It may be that some policies only cover a portion of the cost of a pre-booked cruise, rather than the whole thing.

What if I’m in a rural area and the striking airline is the only one that services our airport?

Again, if you have already booked your flight with the airline, it must provide you with transportation to your destination. But in your case that transportation may take the form of a bus, a train, or a combination of both. Delays caused by such travel are not the liability of the airline. You may want to check with your travel insurance company about canceling the trip altogether rather than endure a “planes, trains, and automobiles” scenario.

Airlines strikes are generally not something that happen overnight. If you watch the news or read a newspaper on a regular basis, you should be aware when there’s trouble brewing with an airline. As a traveler, it is incumbent upon you to pay attention to the state of the airline you have chosen to fly with. The smart traveler will opt for another airline if his first choice shows any signs of trouble.

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