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Are your travel costs protected against air traffic control strikes?

Read my own personal experience when I took a recent holiday break to Ibiza.

The recent Easter holidays was an ideal opportunity to book some days out of the office to spend relaxed quality time with friends and family. Working full-time and caring for a young adult with disabilities takes its toll after a while, so a relaxing wind down holiday was just what I needed.

As my daughter was pre-booked into respite for the first week of the holidays, I took full advantage and decided to take a trip across the Med. to see my mum in Ibiza, while enjoying some warm Mediterranean sunshine and hospitality.

I love the White Isle as Ibiza is fondly known as, but I’m sure you may be thinking something different. Yes you can party all night, sleep all day and get up and do it all over again but to be honest, this is only a small part of the island. Ibiza has so much more to offer and not just for the younger age group. I can’t define what it is about the island that draws me back each time other than to see my mum of course, maybe it’s because it’s so welcoming to everyone and has so much to offer for all generations.

Peace and tranquillity can be found all year on this beautiful island, but mine was brought to a grinding halt on the day I was due to fly home. I was rudely awoken by an email from my flight carrier advising my return flight home was cancelled due to the recent French air traffic control strike. I felt slightly panicked as this has never happened to me before. How would you feel if this happened to you?

My first thoughts were how will I get home and how much will it cost me. When the shock of not going home on the planned date had passed, I checked my travel insurance policy to see if it would cover me for this unforeseen event. Fortunately it did as I had booked my flights prior to the strike being announced. Peace of mind was restored! Not all travel insurance policies offer cover for delayed departure so it is always worth checking before you buy.

My flight carrier offered me either a refund on the original return flight or to change to the next available return flight, free of charge.

We were advised that as soon as the strike was over, airlines would begin to process delayed passengers by booking them onto the first available flights. Unfortunately for me that was 5 days later and I needed to get home. I opted for the refund so I could arrange my return flight with another airline only 2 days later.

When my flight had been confirmed I got on with extending my daughters respite stay, car hire and airport parking and better still, start to enjoy the 2 free extra days with mum. As soon as I returned home, I contacted the travel claims department to advise them of the difficulties I had faced and in less than 7 days the additional costs I had incurred were refunded to me, less my excess of course! I could even have received this had I opted for the ‘excess waiver’ option when I bought my policy. This was a small price to pay though considering I could have been severely out of pocket, if I had risked travelling without adequate insurance.

If you find yourself in a similar situation with a strike delaying your flight, the airline has an obligation to offer you assistance – but not compensation. Unlike flight delays for other reasons, airlines are not obligated to offer compensation following a strike because strikes are usually considered to be ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

It is always worth remembering that travel insurance policies will not cover you if the strike was announced before you booked your trip. Should it be announced after you have booked but before you travel, you should first contact your airline or travel provider (if you have booked a package) and check out the situation with them. If you find your flight is cancelled, check your travel insurance policy and speak to your insurers to establish the cover provided. Had you booked a holiday knowing there was an air traffic control strike planned for the same travel dates, you are unlikely to be covered should your flight be cancelled. However, if you have already booked your holiday and bought travel insurance before a strike is announced, then your travel costs may be protected depending on the cover your travel insurer provides.

I travel abroad three times a year and never leave the house without having the insurance protection I need just in case! It is easy to think “it has never happened to me so we should be ok”, but a strike can happen at any time and you wouldnt want to be caught out. How would you feel if you had to arrange a flight back from the USA and you had failed to insure your travel costs, you may find yourself digging deep into your pockets.

So, don’t be bowled over by a strike next time you travel. Get your travel costs protected as soon as you book!