Summer flights and airports strikes

Spring and summer are popular times for personnel in commercial air traffic to go on strike. Whether it concerns a strike with the airline, baggage handling, security or air traffic control, chances of you being affected are a lot higher in summer. We explain what your rights are for the different types of strikes in air traffic and give you tips to prevent most of the discomfort caused by a sudden strike.

pilots in cockpit with sunset

Strike of pilots or cabin crew

Examples of strikes of airline personnel over the last few years are those of British Airways, Ryanair and Vueling. When pilots, cabin crew or ground staff have issues solving their pay- and working condition conflicts, strikes are used as a way to put pressure on the airline. Strikes in spring and summer have the highest rate of success, as the amount of possible flight cancellations will cost a lot of money for the airline in rearranging flights and paying legal compensation. When pilots, cabin crew or ground staff is on strike and your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to compensation as stated in Regulation 261/2004. The airline is responsible for the strike.

Strike of Air Traffic Control

Especially the French Air Traffic Control is notorious for its strikes. The spring is their favourite strike season. The Air Traffic Control of the district of Marseille even managed to strike for 9(!) weekends in a row in 2018. These strikes had a large effect on passengers across Europe, as the French ATC does not only disrupt flights from and to France, but also overflying traffic. The Italian Air Traffic Control went on strike several times in the past few years. Just as the strikes of pilots and cabin crew, summer is the best time for ATC personnel to go on strike as it is the busiest time in air traffic. By doing so, the pressure on their employer is high and ATC crew has a better chance of getting their expectations met.

Strike of baggage handlers

Almost 53
million pieces of luggage are handled at London Heathrow Airport every year.
That is an average of over 145,000 pieces of luggage per day. When the baggage
handlers decide to go on strike, you can imagine the impact this has on the airport
and flights. Passengers face holidays with late baggage or arrive back home at
the airport without their holiday purchases. A strike of baggage handlers is
not the responsibility or ‘fault’ of the airline, which means that you are not
entitled to compensation. If you arrive at your destinations without your
luggage and you have to buy additional items such as toiletries and clothes,
you can declare these costs with the airline.

Strike of security staff

When the security staff of the airport is on strike, this has severe consequences for the airports’ operation. Many flights will be cancelled as a matter of safety. As the severity of security strikes reaches far, most strikes in their field are ‘work interruptions’ in which they stop their work for a short amount of time, multiple times a day. This has an effect on the passenger lines waiting to pass security and reach their flight in time. Flights are still affected by such a ‘strike’ as some will be cancelled to prevent excess crowds at the airport. There is also a larger chance of you missing your fight due to the busy lines before the security check. Is there a strike of security staff happening on the date of your flight? Make sure you are at the airport in time. When you miss the flight or your flight is cancelled, you are not entitled to compensation. The airline is not responsible for the security staff. A strike of security staff is an extraordinary circumstance.

How to prevent flight disruption from a strike

A strike can never fully be prevented. Still, statistics show that some days are more prone to strikes in air traffic than others. Thursday is the day that is most likely to be associated with a strike. Friday is also a tricky. Least chances of being affected by a strike is happen to be on a Sunday. Something to take into account for your next holiday?

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