Stranded by snow? Your rights

We take a look at your rights if your travel plans are disrupted by the heavy snowfall…

Christmas is looking pretty bleak for the thousands of people whose travel plans lie in chaos, thanks to heavy snow disrupting flights.

With more snow and freezing temperatures predicted, anyone hoping to fly in the next few days is understandably likely to be worried.

For those who are affected, we explain what your rights are and whether your travel insurance policy will pay out...

Will I be refunded if my flight is cancelled?

When a flight is cancelled as a result of the weather, your airline will allow you to book onto a later flight to the same destination or offer a refund.

It does not have to pay for you to make alternative travel plans.

Check your airline’s website for more specific information as some are offering the chance to reschedule your flight if it takes place in the next few days, so you could save yourself some anxiety.

Can I claim compensation from the airline?

If your flight is cancelled then you will have to either reschedule or accept a refund.

However, if it is simply delayed then the airline may provide you with food, phone calls and even accommodation, although EU rules are not entirely clear on this issue. If the airline can claim the cause of the delay is beyond its control then it does not have to compensate passengers.

The good news is that many airlines are providing some comforts, such as hot food, for delayed passengers.

They are not liable for any losses you may incur from other travel plans that you have, which you now cannot make, such as hotels, car hire or other arrangements.

However, you may be able to make a claim from your travel insurer for these irrecoverable losses, so check your policy supplier for details.  Don’t forget to get proof of your cancelled flight from your airline.

Can I claim compensation for delays from my insurer?

Most travel insurance policies pay out for delays at snowbound airports, although you usually have to be delayed by a specific period of time, often between eight and 12 hours.

Most policies will then pay a set cash amount, typically £50, for each subsequent 8/12 hour delay. It will usually be enough to buy you some hot drinks and food, but not to put you up in a hotel.

I can’t reach the airport, will my travel insurance policy pay out?

This depends. If you cannot reach the airport because your train or bus is delayed, for example, then you should be able to claim on your insurance.

However, if you take your car and miss your flight then it becomes a bit more difficult, as the insurer will want to know that you left enough time for your journey.

Aim to get proof of any issues that held you up, for example, if you had to call out roadside rescue then keep the paperwork to show your insurer.

Snow means my flight is cancelled, will my insurer pay?

Your travel insurer will not need to pay out if your flight is cancelled due to poor weather as the airline will cover the cost.

However, depending on the level of cover you have purchased, you should be able to claim for other expenses and losses.

For example, if you cannot get a refund on hotels and other holiday expenses, such as booked day trips or car hire, a comprehensive policy should reimburse you for these irredeemable costs. Check your policy carefully as they all differ.

I am fed of up waiting and want to abandon my trip, can I claim?

Some policies will allow you to claim a portion of your costs if you cancel your trip after being delayed for a certain number of hours.

However, it is worth contacting your insurer to check if you have waited long enough to qualify for cover, it may be as long as 24 hours. You will also need written confirmation of the delay from the airport.

I don’t want to risk the delays, can I cancel and claim?

Most insurers will not pay out if you have simply had a change of heart about flying because of the delays or perhaps because of safety concerns about the journey.

However, a number of airlines are offering free cancellations for no urgent travel in a bid to free up spaces for those people who have to travel in the next few days. Check your airline for details.

I’ve injured myself in the ice, can I cancel my trip?

The dangers of the big freeze aren’t just that your flights might be delayed or cancelled. Slips, trips and falls on the icy roads and pavements can mean you’re not able to make your flight due to injury.

If that’s the case, your travel insurer should pay out, although, as with everything it depends on the extent of the policy you purchased.

Make sure you get a doctor’s note to prove that you are incapable of making your journey as a result of your injury.

What if I don’t have travel insurance?

We strongly recommend you purchase travel insurance as soon as you book any element of your holiday, whether it’s the flights, the hotel or even car hire.

However, there are always people who don’t take out cover, which can be an expensive mistake.

The good news is that, if you have bought a package holiday, and purchased your travel and accommodation together, then you should have the full cost of your missed break reimbursed by the tour operator under the ATOL scheme.

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