It’s a tough time to be working in the aviation industry. Faced with staff shortages and huge levels of disruption, many workers at airlines and airports are facing long, stressful hours and poor working conditions. And, thanks to the cost of living crisis and pandemic pay cuts, loads of them are doing it all for lower wages, too.
Needless to say, it’s no wonder that so many staff at airports and airlines have already gone on strike over the past few months. From Italy and Belgium to Portugal and France, airports across Europe have seen thousands of flights delayed and cancelled by industrial action.
Strikes can, obvs, have a serious impact on your holiday, so it’s best to be as informed about them as possible. Read on for our guide to who’s going on strike in Europe right now, where and when those strikes will happen – and whether you need to worry about them.
London Luton Airport strikes
Around 80 ground handling staff working for Wizz Air at Luton are due to go on three 24-hour strikes, after negotiations between the company and the Unite union collapsed. The walkouts are planned to go ahead on August 30, September 6 and September 13. Read our full explainer on the Luton strikes here.
Earlier last month, it looked like travellers would once again be faced with disruption. Strikes were announced at Gatwick Airport over several dates in August, with workers and baggage handlers expected to cause major disruption to thousands of holiday plans over the August bank holiday weekend.
But as of August 17, those strikes have all been suspended.
French air traffic control strikes
France's largest air traffic control union, SNCTA, have recently announced two new strike dates that will coincide with the Rugby World Cup, which France is hosting. The nationwide strikes are due to take place on September 15 and October 13, with the tournament running from September 8 until October 28.
SNCTA said it ‘cannot accept that the work of air traffic controllers and the public air navigation service be devalued year after year.’ It has encouraged other trade union groups to join the movement.
Strikes by French air traffic controllers have had a knock-on effect on delays across air travel in Europe, and are a major factor in the cancellation of many easyJet and Ryanair flights. It's likely there will be widespread cancellations.
Italian air traffic control strikes
There will be an eight-hour walkout by Italian air traffic controllers on September 16 between 10am and 6pm. It's unlikely that flights due to depart during this time will be affected, but there will probably be delays later on. Italy's civil aviation authority (ENAC) is due to publish a list of guaranteed flights several days in advance, as some flights are protected from strike action.
Strikes in Italian airports
Further to the strikes by air traffic controllers, ground staff at several airports across Italy have announced strikes on September 8. It's not yet known how many staff will participate in the 24-hour walkout, but baggage handlers represented by the FLAI Trasporti union are expected to take part.
Baggage handlers have announced another 24-hour walkout on September 29, too.
Virgin Atlantic Pilots Strikes
According to Union Balpa, 96 percent of the 835 Virgin Atlantic pilots who participated in a recent vote are in favour of a ballot on industrial action. The proposed strike is in response to ‘serious concerns relating to pilot fatigue and wellbeing’ following scheduling arrangements that came into action during the pandemic. Watch this space for further information.
easyJet flight cancellations
A whopping 1,700 easyJet flights have been cancelled over the coming months, impacting over 180,000 passengers. From the flights and airports affected to your rights as a traveller, here is everything you need to know about the cancellations.
What happens if your airline goes on strike?
If the staff on strike cause your flight to be delayed or cancelled, the airline is usually obliged to help you and/or provide compensation. However, this often depends on the conditions of carriage of your airline, as well as the extent of your travel insurance. These should both be easily accessed on either your airline or insurer’s website.
However, if you book your flight already knowing that a strike is set to take place (ie. it’s already been announced by the union), you are exceptionally unlikely to receive compensation. Before you book, be sure to check for any strike dates not just at your intended airline but also at departure and arrival airports.
Of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that the threat of a strike is exactly that: a threat. Strikes are primarily used as bargaining chips in negotiations between unions and employers, so there’s always the chance that both sides will come to an agreement before one actually takes place.
In any case, if your journey involves any of the above airlines, destinations and dates, be sure to keep an eye on your flight status and prepare for a more disrupted journey than expected.