Airline strikes in Europe: what you need to know for your summer trip


European airport workers are on strike and the timing is not ideal. With the lifting of pandemic restrictions in Europe, the continent’s busiest travel season is in full swing, and travelers are facing long queues at airports and canceled flights.

If you’re planning a vacation in Europe, here’s what’s going on and how it could affect your trip.

Chaos at European airports is blocking travelers. Here’s why.

Why are the workers striking?

Amid labor shortages and inflation, airline workers in Europe, including pilots, are striking to demand better wages and more hires. As well as demanding higher wages, union activists in Paris have urged airports to implement an emergency recruitment plan to replenish pre-pandemic workforces.

Verdi, the German union, calls on technical staff at Hamburg airport last week to strike. The German government is trying to put things right by quick follow up visas and work permits for thousands of airport workers from other countries, mainly from Turkey.

Travelers to Italy have also encountered problems when air traffic controllers went on strike in June. Hundreds of flights were canceled as a result of the strike.

Travel-related strikes aren’t just hitting airports. In June, the London Underground – commonly known as ‘the tube’ – was largely closed due to a strike.

“European unions like to strike at times when they can cause the most pain,” said Diana Hechler, president of travel planning company D Tours Travel. “However, their strikes differ from those in the United States because they are usually scheduled for one day or even scheduled on a continuous basis but for short periods.”

Which airlines are affected?

Workers across Europe are speaking out and this is creating a domino effect. A long list of airlines is hit by strikes and staff shortages, and it’s growing every week.

Some airlines have suffered direct hits because their pilots or crews have gone on strike; some reduced routes to avoid walkouts. SAS, the national airline of Denmark, Sweden and Finland, filed for bankruptcy after warning that the pilots’ strike could cancel half of its flights.

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Brussels Airlineswhich is part of German airline Lufthansa, cut 6% of flights for July and August, which the airline says should “bring a better work-life balance for our crews”.

British Airways employees at Heathrow Airport in London suspended a strike after reaching an agreement on a better salary this week, but not before the airline canceled 10,300 flights through October.

Employees of low-cost carriers easyJet and Ryanair also called for strike action this month.

How could my trip be impacted?

In addition to your flight potentially being delayed or canceled, your experience at the airport itself can be chaotic. Travelers endure long queues at check-in, security and immigration counters.

At Amsterdam airport, the security line extended outsideforcing the airport to limit passenger arrivals to no more than four hours before their flights. The baggage has piled up at airports across Europe and have delayed access to passengers due to the continuing shortage of baggage handlers.

The number of flight cancellations and delays across Europe this summer is three to five times higher than in the United States, a Department for Transport spokesman said.

The advice to travelers to show up early and only bring hand luggage holds doubly true for those departing from a European airport.

What are my rights if my flight is cancelled?

Under DOT rules, airlines are required to reimburse you if your flight (to and from the US) is significantly changed or cancelled, and you do not accept the alternative offered.

Since the start of the pandemic, the DOT has opened more than 20 investigations into airlines for failing to provide prompt refunds.

How to get a refund for your canceled flight

For intra-European flights, EU Regulation 261 establishes rules for compensating and assisting passengers if their flight is canceled or delayed, or if they cannot board.

If your flight arrives at or departs from an airport in the European Union, you are entitled to up to 600 euros for long delays or cancellations, according to the Ministry of Transport. The airline often distributes paper forms for passengers to complete, or they will have an electronic form available on their website.

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