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Airline Strike Advice

Airlines and Airport Strikes

What to do if your airline or airport is striking?

For information on what to do if there are strikes on when you are travelling or about to travel, continue reading for advice and tips of what you can do.

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What is an airline strike?

An airline strike is an organised walk-out or work stoppage organised by employees or their unions. The employees of an airline refuse to work in order to protest about something they are not happy about, with the intended result of gaining something from the employer, such as a concession of better pay better pensions for example. This causes disruption when there is not enough staff to run operations, meaning that services can't go ahead like normal.

In the aviation industry, it is not only individual airline strikes that can affect travellers. Airports, air traffic controllers, baggage handlers, airport firefighters and ground staff are just some example of the groups that can also strike, causing disruption to travel.

How will my travel be affected?

Sometimes, travel strikes may mean that your travel will be delayed for a few hours, or even have your flights cancelled. Although usually the strike dates are announced well in advance, sometimes airlines won't announce which flights will be cancelled until last minute, making it difficult for you to know what to do. If you're lucky, the company will solve the problem that people were striking against and call off the strike completely.

What to do if my airline strikes?

Don't Panic

Sometimes airports or airlines have contingency plans for strikes, meaning that even if strikes go ahead, you may complete your journey without even being aware of it.

In addition, there are a lot of times where strikes can get called off, even a the last minute. This is often because the company does not wish to affect travellers journeys, and so meets the demands of the strikers.

Know your Rights

Make sure you do your research and investigate what your airline's policy is for strikes - even when its not their fault such as airport strikes. You can also check out the details of your travel insurance, as you may be covered and able to rebook flights yourself with another airline.

Keep up-to-date with the latest travel information

Because call centres can get busy as all other passengers are calling to ask for information, companies will typically update their websites and social media accounts with the latest news regarding strikes, delays and cancellations. Follow the companies on social media and set up alerts so that you do not miss out on information.

Contact the airline or airport

Although everyone will likely be doing the same, it is a good idea to contact the airline or airport with the strikes, especially if you have checked the company's website and social media (see above point). You may be able to find out which flights are cancelled, and which are expected to be delayed so that you can plan your travels accordingly.

Consider Booking Other Routes

If you really can't deal with not knowing if your flight will be subject to disruption, such as if you have a business meeting that can't be changed or cancelled, you may wish to consider alternative travel plans, regardless of the extra cost. For example, you may wish to book similar flights with similar but different airlines, or to a different nearby airport if it is the whole airport affected by the strike. You may also want to book another route if you have an important connecting flight which you may otherwise miss if you don't make alternative travel arrangements.

What can you do if you have booked with Alternative Airlines?

If there are rumours of strike action

If there is news circulating of strike action from an airline or airport you are due to use, which has not been officially confirmed, then we are not able to amend your booking for free. This is because, until the flight has officially been cancelled or changes, the individual fare rules of the ticket will stand. However, if your flight gets cancelled or changed then we will always let you know. If you can't risk having disruption to your flight, you can rebook another flight with a different airline or route but this will not be compensated you will still have to pay the full fare of both tickets.

If there has been strike action announced

As mentioned, we will always alert you of any cancellations or schedule changes to your flight. Most airlines will put together a specific policy for strikes, which will allow passengers to cancel or rebook on other flights if the flight is announced to be cancelled or changed. We will follow the specific fare rules and policy as this is announced.

If the flight has been cancelled once you are already at the airport

If you have arrived at the airport to find your flight has been cancelled or delayed, we recommend that you converse with the airline staff at the airport. This is because they will often receive information and updates before us, and also be able to rebook them onto the next best available flight much easier.

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Will I get a refund for cancelled flights as a result of strikes?

It depends on the airline you are travelling with. However, under the EU Regulation No 261/2004, if your flight is cancelled because of strikes, you will be entitled to either a full refund of the cost of the airline ticket, an alternative return flight from the same destination, a substitute flight to a nearby airport, with all additional travel costs paid for, or a replacement flight outside the strike duration.

Will I get compensation such as free transport and food for airline strikes?

According to EU regulation, you are entitled to free meals and refreshments if your flight is delayed by two or more hours (depending on the duration and distance of the original flight). If you are delayed until the next day, you will be entitled to hotel accommodation and transport between the airport. If this is not automatically provided, you may have to purchase it yourself and claim it back at a later date with the obtained receipts. Airlines often require you to go for the cost-efficient options, so make sure you keep the costs low.

Does travel insurance cover airline strikes?

Under European Law, it is actually up to the airline to provide alternative arrangements and assistance for flights delays or cancellations. However, you may get some benefits from your travel insurance, depending on which company you are insured with, and your individual policy. Make sure you research your level of cover before travel so you know what you are entitled to. Some common types of travel insurance cover are:

Travel Delay:
 passengers receive a fixed benefit for every 12 hours you are delayed, helping with costs such as food and drinks.

Travel Abandonment: 
If you are subject to a long delay, you may be given the option to abandon your holiday and claim the cost.

Can I claim compensation for airline strikes?

As part of the EU law, you will be covered and able to claim compensation if your flight departs from an EU airport, if it arrives at an EU airport which didn't depart an EU airport but was on an EU carrier, and is cancelled or arrived at least 3 hours late.

However, airlines are not legally obliged to compensate you if it is outside their control. For example, if it is not the airline itself but is instead the airport or another party, you may not be entitled to compensation.

If you believe you are entitled to compensation, you should complain officially to the airline in writing online or over the phone.