For those who are planning a vacation anytime soon, be warned, your flight could be affected by strikes.
Just today, Ryanair pilots union announced it will strike for another seven days in September. British Airways pilots are also set to go on strike on September 9 and September 10 and then again on September 27 potentially impacting travel for thousands of passengers.
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All of this comes after a massive pilot strike at SAS in April and May left more than 370,000 passengers stranded at airports.
“We see many staff strikes every year, even among the world’s major airlines,” says Christian Nielsen, chief legal officer at AirHelp, an organization specializing in air passenger rights.
Given the frequency of such labor actions, AirHelp has just released its step-by-step passenger guide to surviving airline strikes.
Among the key takeaways? Read up on your rights before embarking on a holiday. Here’s a look at the other top tips from AirHelp.
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,” said AirHelp. “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.”
Stay Calm and Know Your Rights
Not having the ability to plan ahead could make you feel helpless, but that’s 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,” said AirHelp.
When travelers arrive at the airport waiting for the announcement of strike-incited cancellations, they can demand that the airline provide refreshments when a delay reaches two hours for a flight under 1500 kilometers, three hours for a flight between 1500 and 3500 kilometers, or four hours for a flight beyond 3500 kilometers.
It is also possible for travelers to purchase meals in proportion to the waiting period, and claim reimbursement from the airline later, said AirHelp
“Passengers should keep all receipts to claim reimbursement later,” said AirHelp.
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.
Get Rightful Compensation for 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.
It’s also important to note that 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,” said the company. “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.”