Holidaymakers have endured huge delays at airports and flight cancellations in what has been a turbulent few months for the travel industry.

To add to the vacation woes, more than 700 British Airways staff could go on strike during the school summer holidays and EasyJet and Ryanair staff across European destinations have also threatened industrial action.

While many would think travel insurance would cover them for these delays and cancellations, passengers are in fact at risk of being caught out and will have to fork out for new flights themselves.

Research by Which? has shown four in 10 travel policies do not cover travellers for strikes by airport or airline staff.

The consumer rights watchdog has urged customers to take extra care when buying insurance ahead of the summer's predicted disruptions.

Which? assessed 199 policies offered by 71 providers and rated them dependent on the level of protection offered in 61 key areas for its annual review of travel insurance.

It found just 60pc of the policies covered travellers if a trip has to be cancelled due to strikes.

This means many could find themselves unprotected.

Covid cover is another area where Which? found huge disparities between policies.

With rising case numbers caused by the spread of the Omicron variant, this is another area of concern and travellers should be careful to ensure they have the right protection for their holiday.

What should holidaymakers do?

Jenny Ross, Which? money editor, said: “With many airlines warning of widespread disruption this summer and Covid cases on the rise, travellers should ensure they’ve taken out adequate insurance to cover any losses or unexpected costs they might face.

“Which? analysis of 199 policies shows that levels of cover can vary wildly in important areas like disruption caused by strike action or Covid.

“We advise travellers to always check policies carefully to ensure they offer the cover that will be most appropriate to their trip, and to ensure they have cover in place from the time of booking.”

Which? also advises that wherever possible holidays should be purchased via credit card, as your credit card provider is legally bound to reimburse you for any purchase over £100 if services provided are not as advertised, and the company responsible won’t refund you.

Tips for ensuring your travel insurance provides the cover you need

Before taking out insurance, always check the policy wording to ensure you understand what it offers and any limitations.

If there are specific reasons you’re buying the cover, check these sections to make sure they align with your expectations.

Some policies specify – and so limit cover to – certain causes of delay or cancellation such as strike, mechanical failure or adverse weather.

Though airlines have to refund you the cost of a cancelled flight or reroute you and pay compensation if the flight was cancelled less than 14 days before departure, additional costs incurred such as emergency accommodation and meals won’t always be met by your carrier.

It is important to check claim limits to ensure they meet your individual requirements, as these can vary significantly. For example, in the case of cancellation due to serious delays or disruption to transport, Which? found that the average claim limit was £4110.22, with the most generous policies offering up to £15,000.