Volcanoes are erupting in Bali and the Philippines. What happens if you’re caught in an ash cloud?

Volcanoes are erupting in Bali and the Philippines. What happens if you’re caught in an ash cloud?

Volcanoes are erupting in Bali and the Philippines. What happens if you’re caught in an ash cloud?

There’s clearly something brewing below the earth’s surface, because volcanoes in the Asia-Pacific region are erupting into action.

Last November, warnings were issued when Bali’s Mount Agung showed signs of spewing lava and it’s been rumbling away ever since, with the most recent activity sending clouds of ash 2,000 metres into the sky.

On Friday, Sumatra’s Mount Sinabung joined the explosive party, and lava has also been seen pouring down the slopes of Mayon in the Philippines since the beginning of this week.

While flights are still operating, anyone travelling to the region should check they have good insurance cover in place, in case holidays are cancelled or they are left stranded.

What is an ash cloud and why does it cause so many headaches?

Mount Agung erupting plume (Thinkstock/PA)
Mount Agung erupting plume (Thinkstock/PA)

These giant plumes forced out by volcanoes contain small particles – such as silicate – which can melt in plane engines, then cool to solidify, resulting in extreme damage to the blades – perhaps even causing them to stop completely.

These particles can also disrupt air flow around the wings and severely affect visibility, so it’s understandable why airlines cancel flights in severe cases.

Will travel insurance cover you if your holiday is cancelled or you are left stranded? 

Before Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in 2010, causing widespread disruption, few people would have considered volcanic activity when buying travel insurance policies.

These days, some insurers do offer cover – of varying degrees – but it’s important to check the policy wording to find out exactly what that means.

(Thinkstock/PA)
(Thinkstock/PA)

When considering policy options, look for natural disaster coverage and check the claims section to see what companies will compensate. Some insurers offer travellers the right to cancel their trip and get a refund; others will help if you are stranded.

In many cases, this degree of cover is sold as an add-on. If you’re really worried, ask about ‘airspace closure’ and ‘cancel for any reason’ clauses.

What about airlines – will they help?

If you’re travelling on an EU airline, they are obliged by law to refund or rebook cancelled flights. They will also cover any reasonable accommodation and food costs if you are stranded.

Airlines outside the EU can offer the same cover if you are flying to or from an EU destination and disrupted while in transit.

Is it safer to book a package holiday?

In many ways, yes. Booking a package deal generally means you have more cover, as the operator has a responsibility to deliver your holiday or issue refunds for cancelled elements. ATOL (the Air Travel Organisers’ Licence) can also offer additional protection.

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