Advertisement
SIGN UP for our newsletter ✉️ :

Get the latest stories delivered straight to you

Iceland earthquakes: What are your rights if you are on holiday or are planning to go?

The earth is at its most restless in Iceland right now. The Reykjanes peninsula, southwest of Reykjavik, is seething with seismic activity sparking hundreds of small earthquakes.

The town of Grindavík, just 10 miles south of Keflavik International Airport, has been evacuated as a precaution.

Yet flights are continuing to arrive and depart as normal. These are the key questions and answers on consumer rights.

I am in Iceland. Will I be able to leave?

Yes, assuming the international airport remains open. So far operations have been normal. There are 14 arrivals and departures planned for Saturday from and to the UK, with no signs of disruption to flights.

You may be keen to leave earlier than booked, in order to guarantee your getaway, but at present you will not be able to switch flights without paying a penalty.

A spokesperson for British Airways told The Independent: “Our flights are operating as planned and we continue to monitor the situation closely.

The earthquakes have struck just 10 miles south of Iceland’s main airport, Keflavík International Airport, but the UK foreign office have said travel can go ahead (Vafri.is)
The earthquakes have struck just 10 miles south of Iceland’s main airport, Keflavík International Airport, but the UK foreign office have said travel can go ahead (Vafri.is)

“We will be in touch with customers directly should the situation change.”

The easyJet statement is very similar: “Our flying schedule is currently operating as normal however we are monitoring the situation closely and should this change we will contact customers directly to advise on their flights.”

But didn’t an Icelandic volcano shut down European aviation for a week?

Yes. Travellers may remember where they were in April 2010, when the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted. The skies of northern Europe completely closed to passenger aviation for almost a week because of fears that volcanic ash spreading southeast from Iceland could damage aircraft engines and endanger travellers.

More than 50,000 flights, with eight million passengers booked to travel, were cancelled.

So far in 2023, though, ash has not been an issue in the current geological outburst.

Iceland’s Blue Lagoon has been closed as a precuation (Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Iceland’s Blue Lagoon has been closed as a precuation (Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

What if I am booked on a package holiday?

Foreign Office advice stops well short of advising against travel to Iceland, meaning holiday companies can continue to operate as normal – with no automatic right to cancel.

The Foreign Office advice to British travellers is that it is “increasingly possible” that a volcanic eruption could occur. The official warning on “volcanic eruption and earthquakes” reads: “Earthquakes and indications of volcanic activity have increased above normal levels on the Reykjanes peninsula, southwest of Reykjavik.

“The Icelandic authorities continue to monitor the area closely, particularly the area northwest of Mt Thorbjörn near the Svartsengi power plant and the Blue Lagoon. On 10 November, a Civil Protection Alert was declared after an intense swarm of earthquakes.

“The town of Grindavík was evacuated as a precaution. Some roads have been closed and visitors are advised to stay away from the area.

“Keflavik International Airport is operating as normal. While there is no current eruption, it is increasingly possible that one could occur.”

 (Icelandic Met Office)
(Icelandic Met Office)

Until and unless the Foreign Office warns against travel, the assumption is that everything will go ahead as normal.

The one exception is for holidaymakers who had planned to stay at the Blue Lagoon – an increasingly popular “wellness” destination, with an upmarket hotel on the site. The Blue Lagoon is currently closed.

Only those booked for a stay have the chance to cancel; if you were hoping to pop in as a day visitor for a steamy stop in the volcanic rock pools, you will need to return at some time in the future.

Can I claim on insurance?

No, unless it is one of the vanishingly rare “cancel for any reason” policies. On standard travel insurance, “disinclination to travel” is not an acceptable reason for a claim.

Would you go to Iceland at the moment?

Yes, I would relish the opportunity. Late November is an excellent time to visit Iceland for good value. Conditions right now are also excellent for the prospect of a good show to the Northern Lights, which are at a peak of the usual 11-year cosmic cycle.

I also know that the Icelandic authorities are expert at handling seismic events, with extremely good monitoring and emergency systems in place.

I would book a package holiday, though, knowing that if the earth gets too restless for comfort in the vicinity, I would be able to cancel for a full refund.