Columbus Direct offers advice to travellers on anniversary of volcanic ash cloud disruptions

04 October 2013

As the third anniversary of the Eyjafjallajökull ash cloud approaches, Columbus Direct travel insurance urges air travellers to be vigilant about planning for unexpected disruptions and to ensure that their travel insurance adequately covers the direct and indirect costs of flight cancellations.

During the 2010 disruption the European Union shut down airspace despite widespread protests from airlines, resulting in major financial losses. Many European travellers found themselves stranded in a foreign location.  While EU-based airlines are legally required to cover the cost of cancelled flights, passengers travelling on non-EU airlines have no guarantee of this. Further, incidental costs such as extended hotel stays, while theoretically covered, are often disputed by airlines facing their own financial difficulties after major travel disruptions.

Research conducted by the Mintel International Group [1] shows that in the wake of the 2010 ash cloud, 34% of travel insurance consumers listed cancellation and delay protection as the most important aspects of travel coverage - a marked increase from 2009, when only 14% of customers listed these among the most important features of their travel policy.  However, while most travellers now realise the importance of getting some form of travel insurance protection, 40% always go for the cheapest option without fully understanding what is covered. 

Greg Lawson, Head of Travel Insurance, commented, "Ultimately, consumers have become more aware of the need for cancellation and delay protection due to recent severe or unexpected weather disruptions. However, many policies do not include this automatically and require additional payment to cover when delays or cancellations are not the fault of the airline.  This underscores the importance of travellers being fully aware of policy terms in addition to price when selecting travel coverage.  Whilst aggregators are a valuable comparison tool, only the key benefits are compared and many products are designed to be lower cost than are sold on direct websites. As such, some cover may be missing and, while cost considerations are always important, customers should always focus on the quality and features of a policy that they value."

Columbus's top tips for ensuring adequate cover:

(1)   Fully understand the terms and conditions of your travel insurance and make sure to purchase adequate cover.

(2)   Research the area you are travelling to in order to discover the likelihood of ash cloud or unexpected interruptions; the FCO advice website is a great place to learn about potential travel disruptions (

(3)   If weather-related or other 'non-airline' interruptions are common where you're travelling, consider insurance topping up with trip disruption cover, such as Emergency Travel Upgrade (ETU), which provides for extra travel and accommodation expenses in the event of any unforeseen circumstances.  

(4)   Always be clear on what your airline is legally required to pay for in the event of cancellation due to weather or other unexpected interruptions. 

(5)   Carry your policy details with you as well as contact details for your insurer so that you are able to get guidance in the event you are stranded abroad.

Columbus Ash Cloud & ETU - what it covers

   Silver Gold
  (Ash cloud only)  (Ash cloud & ETU* combined)
 Travel Delay £150  £200
 - per 12 hours £15 £20
Abandonment  £4,000 £7,500
Missed Departure  £500 £1,500

Note: the amounts are per person amounts

What it costs

   Silver Gold
  (Ash cloud only)  (Ash cloud & ETU* combined)
Single trip £8.00


Annual  £12.00 £20.00

*ETU = Emergency Travel Upgrade, which provides £4,000 of additional cover In the event of any unforeseen circumstances

[1] Mintel International travel insurance trends report, published February 2012

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