Update: The key dates for when travel is set to be disrupted in Europe
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Strike action has been spreading like wildfire throughout the European travel sector in recent months, affecting all kinds of services as workers demand better conditions and pay following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
While some of the disputes have been resolved — last month, SAS struck a deal with its pilots after they went on a strike, while British Airways narrowly averted industrial action from 700 check-in and ground staff at London Heathrow airport (LHR).
So with that in mind, we’ve put together a handy guide to know what’s been affected, where it’s being affected and when.
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From proposed union strikes across the continent to the raft of ‘planned’ cancellations designed to ease the pressure on airport and airline staff during the school holidays, here’s what you should know.
NOW – 31 August: London Gatwick flight cap
Not a strike per se, but nonetheless a major dent in thousands of travel plans: London Gatwick Airport (LGW) has announced a cap on flights during the peak season. This follows pressure by the CAA and Department for Transport for U.K airports to cancel early rather than resort to a slurry of last-minute cancellations like we’ve seen over the recent summer months.
The U.K’s second busiest airport is keen to avoid a repeat of the chaos that accompanied the Easter and Jubilee break, and is cutting the number of daily flights to 825 in July and 850 in August (normally the number is over 900).
EasyJet fliers beware: few airlines will be as hard hit due to these Gatwick cancellations as the low-cost colossus which is based at the airport and has already cancelled thousands of flights this year alone.
8 August – 7 January 2023: Spanish Ryanair staff strike
Spanish cabin crew for Ryanair have voted to strike across the country between 8 August and 7 January, 2023. Avoiding peak weekend traffic, the action will take place every week from Monday to Thursday, lasting 24 hours.
On top of better pay and working conditions, the Sindical Obrera and Sitcpla unions are calling for 11 staff members fired during recent strikes to be given their jobs back.
While the airline is downplaying the action as “minimal”, it is set to affect services from Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, Alicante, Seville and Palma de Mallorca.
In response to the planned action, the underfire airline said: “Ryanair has recently reached an agreement with the main Spanish CCOO union on pay, rosters and allowances for its Spanish cabin crew. Recent strikes by USO/SITCPLA have been poorly supported with minimal effect.
“Ryanair has operated over 45,000 flights to/from Spain over the last 3 months with less than 1% affected by crewing and Ryanair expects minimal (if any) disruption this winter.”
12 – 29 August: Spanish easyJet staff strike
Fellow budget operator easyJet is also facing more strike woes in Spain after pilots based in the country voted to strike for 9 days this month.
The Spanish aviation sector has been awash with strike action this year — not least by easyJet cabin crew who staged walkouts between 1 and 3 July, and then again from 15-17 July.
Some strike action was averted in July, but the next industrial action is set to take place during the following periods:
- 12-14 August
- 19-21 August
- 27-29 August
It’s also important to remember they’re striking for good reason: the Spanish trade union is asking for a 40% pay rise for its members to apparently bring pay in line with their French and German equivalents. At present, easyJet’s Spanish crew receive a basic pay of €950 per month (£816), excluding bonuses and overtime.
If you do end up on the receiving end of a last-minute cancellation, here’s a guide on what to do.
18-20 August: More train and tube strikes
Hot on the heels of a triple whammy of rail strikes in late July, which saw a day of strike action on London’s Underground sandwiched by two nationwide walkouts by train staff, similar action is expected in mid-August.
Should their demands not be met in the meantime, the RMT union is planning nationwide walkouts on the railways on Thursday 18 and Saturday 20 August, when, once again, passengers will find that less than 20 percent of services are operational.
On 19 August, TfL workers will bring the fight to the capital’s sprawling tube network with their own strike, forcing millions of commuters and tourists to seek alternative transport by car, foot, cab or bus.
If you encounter strike action yourself — even if it’s reaching an airport during the latest U.K. rail strikes — be warned: most travel insurance doesn’t cover pre-planned industrial action. So ensure plenty of time to prepare for alternative routes if you’re travelling on the dates affected.
Find out more about which services will be affected right here.
Now — 2023: Heathrow flight cap
Worried they might crumble under the sheer weight of holidaymakers, London Heathrow airport has made the decision to limit departing passengers to 100,000 per day — 4,000 fewer than originally expected.
This cap was initially criticised by airlines, including Emirates, which labelled it an “airmageddon” situation. The airline has since conceded and will be adjusting its schedule accordingly.
Heathrow stalwart British Airways has even placed a sales freeze on short-haul flights from the airport until 8 August in response to the cap, which it hopes will allow it to meet its quotas while also freeing up space on flights for passengers whose existing bookings may be cancelled.
Originally billed to run until September, the flight cap has been extended to the rest of the year at the minimum. “This is not going to be a quick fix,” said the airport’s CEO John Holland-Kaye last week. “It’s absolutely possible that we could have another summer with a cap still in place. It’s going to take 12 to 18 months, and not just at Heathrow.”
Airlines have already sold an average of 1,500 tickets per day more than the 100,000 cap for that period, according to Heathrow. Even if the carriers stop selling tickets, there will still be an excess of flights over the proposed cap that are already booked.
So be prepared for potential cancellations if you’re flying from Heathrow between now and 2023.
Try as you might, finding positives for the current airport crisis isn’t easy. Particularly as Europe’s aviation industry gears up for its busiest time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Strikes and industrial action by cabin crews and staff shortages at airports and airlines have the potential to bite hard, resulting in thousands of cancellations and lengthy delays.
Keep an eye on these dates and plan accordingly, however, even changing routes or dates prior to booking if needed, and you should be ok.
Click here for tips on obtaining a refund from airlines sooner than later, and keep checking this page for new updates.
Featured image by izusek/Getty Images.
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