Cancelled flights: Airline's responsibility or a travel insurance claim?

Holiday makers can often get confused between the rights they have by law when an airline cancels their flight and the cancellation cover provided by their travel insurance policy.

To make things easier we've put together a short guide to help you work out whether you should be pursuing your airline for a refund or making a claim on your travel insurance.

Our handy guide to flight cancellation will make things clearer

The main factor to consider is who is actually cancelling your flight;

If the AIRLINE cancels your flight it is their responsibility to offer you an alternative or provide you with a full refund.

If YOU cancel your flight, the airline doesn't have to offer you a refund (check their terms and conditions) and you may be able to claim on your travel insurance.

If YOU need to cancel your flight: What does travel insurance cover?

Travel insurance can provide cover if you need to cancel your flight. This means that if you have to cancel your flight or your holiday for an insured reason such as illness, redundancy or your home becoming uninhabitable you can make a claim on your travel insurance to recoup the cost.

Gold and Platinum travel insurance policies from include cancellation cover. Please see your policy schedule for details of the amount covered.

When you are choosing which travel insurance to purchase you should compare the level of cancellation cover provided with the cost of your holiday.

To get the full benefit of the cancellation cover you should buy travel insurance as soon as you've booked your holiday, to ensure that the money you've paid is protected. Travel insurance is designed to provide cover for the unexpected, so as soon as you become aware of something which may cause you to cancel your holiday it is too late to buy insurance.

Cancellation cover for pre-existing medical conditions

If you suffer from a pre-existing medical condition you should declare it when you buy travel insurance to ensure that you are properly covered if you do have to cancel your holiday due to illness.

Remember, you would not be covered for cancellation due to illness if it was related to a pre-existing medical condition unless you had declared that medical condition when you purchase the travel insurance policy.

What are your rights if your AIRLINE cancels your flight?

When you book flights you have a contract with your airline to get you to certain destination at a certain time, if they are unable to do that they have a legal duty to offer you a full refund or provide an alternative flight.

Flights departing/arriving in the UK from the EU

These regulations apply to all those departing from EU airports as well as those arriving at an EU airport on an EU airline.

If your airline cancels your flight you are entitled to:

  • A full refund of the parts of the ticket not used


  • You can choose an alternative flight reach to your final destination as soon as possible, or an alternative flight to your final destination at a later date which suits you. This should include a transfer to the original airport, or another close by destination of your choice.

You may also be entitled to compensation if your flight was cancelled less than 14 days before you were due to fly.

Please note: Despite the UK's departure from the EU, the regulations continue to apply to flights departing from the UK to EU member states and to flights arriving in the UK from EU member states.

Flights arriving/departing the UK from non-EU destinations
For flights departing from the UK to non-EU destinations and flights arriving in the UK from non-EU destinations, you still have rights and protections under UK CAA regulations. The UK has adopted similar rules to the EU for these flights, but there may be some differences.

Flights outside of the UK and EU

Your rights if a non-EU airline cancels your flight will vary according to the terms and conditions of your contract with the airline. The majority of airlines will have a contractual obligation to offer you a full refund or provide an alternative flight it they cancel your original flight.