Will Insurance Cover Cruise Travellers Delayed by U.K. Airport Shutdown?

April 15, 2010
Travel Insurance (1 p.m. EDT) --Your flight into or out of U.K. airports has been cancelled due to a giant cloud of volcanic ash that has brought air travel to a standstill -- now what? Will you be covered for the costs you'll incur by delaying or cancelling your travel plans? Will you be able to reach your cruise ship? Here's what you need to know:

Your airline should be responsible for re-routing or refunding you for flights you can't take. Talk to them first. If you booked airfare through your cruise line or a travel agency as part of a fly-cruise package, contact them as they may handle the rebooking for you.

If you incur additional costs due to trip delay -- such as an extra hotel night in your debarkation port or cancellation fees for a hotel in your departure port you now can't use -- you may be covered under the "Trip Delay" portion of your travel insurance policy, should you have purchased one. Contact your insurance company to find out what's covered and be prepared to present documentation. But, first, check with your cruise line or package provider to see if they're helping with arrangements -- for example, Fred. Olsen is providing hotel stays for Braemar passengers whose flights out of Manchester to the Barbados departure port have been cancelled.

Some cruise lines are delaying departures to give affected travelers more time to reach the departure port. For example, Thomson Cruises is holding Thomson Celebration in the port of Sharm el Sheikh for an extra 24 hours to give passengers extra time to reach the ship. Make sure you know what your ship's plans are before you rebook your travel plans.

If you're forced to cancel your cruise because you simply can't get there, check with your cruise line first. Royal Caribbean is waiving the transfer fee for passengers who choose to rebook on a different sailing and are offering a full refund if a suitable alternative cannot be found. However, if your line isn't as generous, or if you have to cancel additional travel arrangements (hotels, car rentals, tours), check with your travel insurance company. According to Jennifer Thomas, spokesperson for Direct Line Travel Insurance, "If a customer has a flight cancelled and is refunded from the airline, but still has accommodation that they can't cancel or use, these claims can be considered under travel delay leading to trip abandonment."

Didn't buy travel insurance? You're out of luck. Travel insurance only covers unforeseen events. Now that the airport shutdown is all over the news, you cannot now buy a new insurance policy and expect it to cover your cancelled travel plans.

For more on travel insurance, see our news item, Cruise Insurance: Are You Protected in a Natural Disaster?, or our feature, Travel Insurance -- Pros and Cons.

--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor

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