The ins and outs of Airport Strikes and compensations

2019-11-06
airport strikWhen Can Airlines Refuse to Pay Compensation?e flight cancellation compensation

Recent strikes at Lufthansa and a national transport strike in Italy caused travel chaos for thousands of passengers, but is there an easy way to know when flight compensation is due because of a strike?

“In principle, strikes do not exempt air carriers from compensation liability for any cancelled flights,” says Elżbieta Tyszka, Head of Legal at GIVT.

Airlines love to cite extraordinary circumstances, or force majeure for anything and everything in a bid to avoid paying airline strike compensation, but unless airlines have given the required notice then they may indeed be liable.

Who is on strike?

The most important thing to know is who is on strike? Is it the airline, and their own staff? Once it is substantiated that the airline or flight operator is at fault, then the onus is on them to compensate passengers for any cancelled or delayed flights caused as a result of the strike action.

“From the point of view of passengers, what is important is who organises the strike,” explains Elżbieta Tyszka. “Airline employees can be divided into two groups: ground handling staff and employees employed directly by the airline.”

Extraordinary circumstances (force majeure)

If airport staff are on strike then this is considered extraordinary circumstances, and airlines are exempt from compensation liability. If air traffic control goes on strike then compensation is not due, similarly for baggage handlers, or delays caused by the pilots or aircrew of other airlines.

While strike action can be seemingly spontaneous to passengers, for airlines it is usually the result of weeks of talks, and discussions between staff and management, and as such cannot be considered as force majeure, and does not exempt airlines from paying compensation due to a strike.

“Legal” strikes and “illegal” strikes

Whether airlines cry foul and claim that staff went on strike illegally, or the protest was a “wildcat strike”, makes no difference to passengers. Travellers will be as equally put out by disrupted flights and consequently are due compensation for any delayed or cancelled flights. Regulation (EU) No 261/2004 covers all such cases, and makes provision for various passenger rights, including the right to food and refreshments, alternate flights in the case of flights cancelled due to strikes, and monetary compensation for flights delayed over 3 hours.

In general trade unions must announce strike action well in advance, as was the case with the national transport strike in Italy recently. Flights cancelled by airlines less than 14 days before the scheduled departure time were due EU flight compensation because of the airline being on strike.

Whilst illegal strikes may lead to disciplinary actions against participants, there are not seen as extraordinary circumstances by Regulation (EU) No 261/2004.

“This was confirmed by the European Court of Justice in April 2018. Since this precedent we can safely assume that all such cases will be decided in the passengers’ favour and no airline should question the Court’s decision,” agrees Elżbieta Tyszka.

Cancelled flights – minimum notification

If your airline acted before the strike occurred and gave notification of cancelled flights in advance then compensation may still be due. Flight cancelled due to strike with less than 14 days’ notice are due compensation.

See our blog on cancelled flights for more details Flight cancellations, a travellers biggest fear If you have suffered a disrupted flight due to strike action and are unsure as to whether you are entitled to strike cancelled flight compensation, or strike flight delay compensation check our free of charge online flight validator now and see how much compensation you may be due!

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