Chaos at European airports leaves travelers stranded. Here’s why.
Why are workers on strike?
Amid labor shortages and inflation, airline workers in Europe, including pilots, are striking to demand better wages and more hiring. In addition to demanding higher salaries, union activists in Paris urged airports to implement an emergency recruitment plan to rebuild pre-pandemic workforces.
The German trade union Verdi last week called on the technical staff at Hamburg Airport to go on strike. The federal government is remedying the situation with accelerated visa and work permits for thousands of airport employees from other countries, above all from Turkey.
Travelers in Italy also faced problems when air traffic controllers went on strike in June. Hundreds of flights have been canceled as a result of the strike.
The travel-related strikes are not just affecting airports. In June, the London Underground – commonly referred to as “the Tube” – was mostly 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 US in that they are usually scheduled on a daily or even ongoing basis, but only for short periods of time.”
Which airlines are affected?
Workers across Europe are speaking up and there is a domino effect. A long list of airlines has been hit by strikes and staff shortages, and it’s growing weekly.
Some airlines have suffered direct hits because their pilots or crew have gone on strike; Some have cut routes to avoid strikes. SAS, the national airline for Denmark, Sweden and Finland, filed for bankruptcy after warning that the pilots’ strike could cancel half of its flights.
Should you fly or drive this summer? That’s how you decide.
Brussels Airlines, part of German airline Lufthansa, has cut flights by 6 percent for July and August, which the airline said “should bring a better work-life balance for our crews”.
British Airways workers at London’s Heathrow Airport suspended a strike after reaching an agreement on better wages this week, but not before the airline canceled 10,300 flights by October.
The employees of the low-cost airlines easyJet and Ryanair have also called for strikes this month.
How could my trip be affected?
In addition to a possible delay or cancellation of your flight, your experience at the airport itself can be chaotic. Travelers have to endure long lines at check-in, security and immigration desks.
At Amsterdam Airport, the security line extended outwards, forcing the airport to limit passenger arrivals to no more than four hours before their departure. Baggage has piled up at airports across Europe and passenger arrivals have been delayed as the shortage of baggage handlers continues.
The number of flight cancellations and delays across Europe this summer is three to five times higher than in the United States, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation said.
The advice for travelers to show up early and carry only one piece of hand luggage applies doubly to those departing from a European airport.
What rights do I have if my flight is cancelled?
Under US Department of Transportation regulations, airlines are required to refund you if your flight (to and from the United States) is significantly changed or canceled and you do not accept the alternative offered.
Since the pandemic began, DOT has launched more than 20 investigations into airlines for failing to issue refunds promptly.
How to get a refund for your canceled flight
For flights within Europe, the EU 261 regulation sets out compensation rules and assistance for passengers if their flight is canceled, delayed or if they are unable to board.
If your flight arrives 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 fill out, or makes an electronic form available on their website.