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Paying the price for an absence of travel insurance

Pricewatch: The ferry company cancelled the crossing as a result of circumstances beyond its control – the weather

We have written about the importance of travel insurance on this page over many years and have a couple of stories from readers that further emphasise that point.

Laura recently bought two member of her family flights to Portugal and did not take out insurance as she “assumed” the family members in question had it covered.

“I subsequently discovered they did not,” she writes. Ahead of the trip one of the travelling party fell and broke a hip and was unable to travel with the break and the risk of blood clots deemed effectively ruling it out.

“Ryanair states their policy is the do not provide refunds because the seat you booked has operated empty in your absence. They do, however, say that they may refund you the cost of your flight ticket in the form of a travel credit if you become ‘seriously ill’ and are therefore unable to travel,” Laura writes.


Serious illness requests are considered on a case-by-case basis at our discretion.

“Following the accident, I wrote to Ryanair and provided them with full details of the accident and the consequences of it. Despite several exchanges with Ryanair, I continue to get a response that they do not provide refunds and consider the matter closed,” she says.

“They have offered no evidence that they have reviewed the case or any grounds on why in their discretion they found the situation to not merit a credit being issued. I also find it extraordinary that having advised them in advance that [my family] would not be travelling, they do not seem to be under any obligation to mitigate the exposure of an empty seat.”

She wonders how she can get the airline to engage in “what is a legitimate claim. The cost of the ticket was €717″.

We don’t have much by way of good news for Laura. While she believes the claim to be legitimate, Ryanair is entirely within its rights to reject it. In our experience the airline can – and does – offer people refunds and credit in some situations including the death of a member of a travelling party or a very serious medical diagnosis but in truth, it does not have to do it and can reasonably point to a passenger’s need to have travel insurance to cover themselves in scenarios such as the one outlined by Laura.

We also heard from John Fagan who was all at sea – or at least not at sea at all – after Brittany Ferries cancelled his journey back from Bilbao.

“It’s cost us a lot to make alternative arrangements,” he writes. “I asked them what am I entitled to regarding compensation, however, they said they don’t have to pay us any compensation under some EU law.”

He also included the correspondence from the ferry company.

It said it was “not in a position to make any compensatory payment as we don’t provide any refund for expenses and inconvenience caused by cancelled crossings due to adverse weather conditions... Any costs incurred as a result of the cancellation would have to be addressed to your travel insurers who may well provide cover for this kind of exigency.”

Again, the news we have for our reader is not great. The ferry company cancelled the crossing as a result of circumstances beyond its control – the weather. And as a result, it was not bound to compensate our reader.

That does not mean, however, that it had no obligations to our reader and as with a flight cancellation it had a duty of care to our reader.

According to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, if a ferry is cancelled – or delayed by more than 90 minutes – John has the right to an alternate crossing at the earliest opportunity or a refund of his ticket within seven days.

The CCPC also says that he will “not be entitled to accommodation or compensation if the ferry can prove that the cancellation or delay was caused by weather conditions which would make it unsafe to sail”.

This is where travel insurance comes in although it would be important to make sure the policy had a cancellation or curtailment element.