Queuing at Heathrow Airport: Which? has advised people to take care when buying travel insurance

Which? has advised people to take care when buying travel insurance ahead of a summer of predicted disruption. Photo: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

As many as four in 10 travel insurance policies do not cover for strikes by airport or airline staff, new research has shown.

New data from consumer group Which? assessed 199 policies offered by 71 providers, rating them on the level of protection offered in 61 key areas for its annual review of travel insurance.

Just six in 10 — a total of 120 — policies offered cover if customers had to cancel their trips due to strikes, meaning a significant proportion of travellers could find themselves unprotected.

Some 78 policies did not provide cover at all for cancellations due to strikes, while for one policy it was available as an optional extra.

The company has advised people to take care when buying travel insurance ahead of a summer of predicted disruption.

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Last month staff at British Airways voted in favour of strike action, meaning more travel misery ahead for UK travellers.

Around 700 employees at London’s Heathrow airport balloted for industrial action, which is set to fall in line with the start of the summer holidays to cause maximum chaos.

Workers voted 95% in favour of a strike for better pay, with an 81% turnout, the union behind the strikes, GMB, said.

They are calling for the 10% pay cut imposed during the pandemic to be overturned.

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Which? highlighted that anyone who has their holiday cancelled by a package tour operator is entitled to a refund by law.

Airlines are also obligated to refund passengers when they cancel flights, including when the cancellation is caused by their own staff going on strike.

Likewise, package holidays from an ATOL protected firm will ensure that travellers will be reimbursed should the company go out of business, and repatriated if it happens while abroad.

It advised that wherever possible, holidays should be purchased via credit card, as your credit card provider is legally bound to reimburse you for any purchase over £100 if services provided are not as advertised.

Read more: How BA strike will impact your summer travel plans

COVID-19 cover is another area where Which? found huge disparities in the level of cover offered.

Of the policies examined, just nine offered what it considers to be “complete” protection in the event of a holiday being disrupted by coronavirus.

This means that travellers can claim for emergency medical care if they catch COVID while abroad, and have the option to claim cancellation costs if they test positive before their trip.

Which? said: “These policies also provide cover should the legal requirement to self-isolate be reintroduced for those identified as close contacts. They can also claim if, after booking their trip, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advises against travel to their destination because of COVID, or because of regional or national restrictions on movement.”

Two-thirds of policies — 131 in total — offered what is considered to be “superior” level COVID cover, meaning that the policy covers travellers for emergency medical care and cancellations due to catching the virus, as well as offering cover in the event that legal requirements to self-isolate are reintroduced.

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Three in 10 policies — some 55 — were rated “low” for the cover offered, providing emergency medical cover for contracting COVID abroad and the ability to claim if cancelling a trip due to testing positive.

Meanwhile, four policies were considered “basic”, only providing emergency medical cover in the event of catching COVID-19 while abroad.

“With many airlines warning of widespread disruption this summer and COVID cases on the rise, travellers should ensure they’ve taken out adequate insurance to cover any losses or unexpected costs they might face,” Jenny Ross, Which? money editor said.

“Which? analysis of 199 policies shows that levels of cover can vary wildly in important areas like disruption caused by strike action or COVID.

“We advise travellers to always check policies carefully to ensure they offer the cover that will be most appropriate to their trip, and to ensure they have cover in place from the time of booking.”

Watch: ‘Chaos’ at Heathrow as 30 flights are cancelled by airport for capacity reasons