How to survive airline strike season
If you’re planning to go on holiday anytime soon, watch out – your flight could be affected by strikes. A massive pilot strike at SAS in April and May left more than 370,000 passengers stranded at airports. Strikes are a growing problem: staff from Ryanair and British Airways have also been on strike, and according to news sources, more are planning to strike in the near future. This problem is not likely to go away anytime soon.
Before departing for the airport, AirHelp strongly advises air passengers to know their rights under a strike.
1. Wait for airlines to act. When airline staff decides to go on strike, it is very seldom that airline authorities will cancel flights right away. Often, the airline will still try to get flights operating by actively negotiating with unions or even involving legal action to settle the dispute. As a consequence, many travelers do not know whether to reschedule their itinerary or not. If an airline does not cancel a flight 14 days before the originally scheduled departure, it is very likely that the airline is strongly pursuing negotiation with unions and might wait to cancel the flight until the very last minute. In such cases, passengers should not cancel the original flight before the airline confirms the flight cancellation, because airlines can refuse to pay for a refund and leave passengers paying for two tickets in the end.
2. Stay calm and know your rights. Not having the ability to plan ahead could make you feel helpless, but that is why the European Flight Compensation Regulation (EC261) has a comprehensive scheme to compensate travelers’ losses. The first thing travelers need to know about is their right to care, under which they can claim compensation for meals, refreshments, and two free phone calls, emails, or fax. When travelers arrive at the airport waiting for the announcement of strike-incited cancellations, they can demand that the airline provides those when a delay reaches two hours for a flight of the distance under 1500km, three hours for a flight between 1500 and 3500km, or four hours for a flight beyond 3500km. It is also possible for travelers to purchase meals in proportional to the waiting period, and claim reimbursement from the airline later. Passengers should keep all receipts to claim reimbursement later. Once the airline confirms the flight cancellation, passengers can choose from three actions: refund, rebooking to the next available flight, or rebooking to a later suitable flight. If the newly scheduled flight requires passengers to stay overnight at the airport, passengers can demand that the airline provides accommodation and transportation to and forth free of charge.
3. Get rightful compensation for your losses. Most importantly, after all these hassles, if you were traveling to or from the EU then you may be entitled to up to $700 in compensation – no matter if the airline cancels the flight and refunds the ticket, or provides a replacement flight to the original destination. As long as it is a last-minute cancellation or a flight delay of more than three hours, passengers can claim this compensation in addition to the other things that airlines provide during strikes. Also, airlines will often reject passengers’ claims for compensation by arguing that strikes are beyond the airline’s control and that airlines are thus not responsible for paying for compensation. AirHelp would like to raise broader awareness and reiterate that, a flight disruption caused by airline staff strike is definitely eligible despite what the airline states. Backed up by the latest decision from the highest European legal entity, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), airline staff strikes are a consequence of deteriorating relations between airline industry employers and employees. Even if a strike is a wildcat, the ECJ assures that passengers are still owed compensation for their losses during a strike.