Industrial Strikes - Can You Claim Flight Compensation?
Claiming Flight Compensation For Strikes or Industrial Action
Airline strikes are, at best, inconvenient. At their worst, they could upend all your plans or cost you and your loved ones considerable amounts of money.
If your flight is delayed or cancelled due to strikes, you may be eligible for compensation. This is thanks to EU Reg 261 (Flight Compensation Regulation), which protects passengers whose flights are delayed or cancelled.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the different kinds of strikes affecting flights, your rights as a passenger, and what to do if your plans change.
Compensation for cancelled flights due to industrial action
Before we discuss your rights as a passenger, it’s important to understand the distinction between monetary compensation and refunds/alternative routes.
In the event of strikes, under EU Reg 261 you could be eligible for a combination of:
- Reasonable care and assistance
- Alternative flights to your destination
- A full refund for your ticket
In some circumstances, you might also be entitled to financial compensation. This is relative to the length of the delay and the distance, and is offered on top of everything else you can claim in some cases.
What are my rights if I’m affected by wildcat strikes?
Wildcat strikes gained widespread media attention in 2016 after a multi-million-pound case was brought to the European Court of Justice. The case, Helga Krüsemann and Others v TUIfly GmbH, ruled that passengers could now claim for cancellations or delays for “wildcat” strikes.
The term “wildcat strike” refers to a strike launched by airline staff at the last minute, as opposed to a strike that has been planned in advance.
Can you claim for a flight cancelled due to Air Traffic Control?
The subject of Air Traffic Control strikes is a contentious one, with Air France strike compensation claims coming up time and again. In May 2019 alone, there were 5,000 flights affected by strikes.
Strictly speaking, Air Traffic Control should not ground flights for any reasons other than passenger safety, for example in freak weather. However, this is not always the case.
In the case of Air Traffic Control strikes, your rights to refunds and care and assistance would be the same. However, it’s unlikely you’ll receive any monetary compensation as the airline will deem this an “extraordinary circumstance”.
What are my rights if there are airline crew strikes?
According to the Civil Aviation Authority, you may be able to claim if airline employees call a strike.
You will only be eligible for compensation if you meet the criteria of EU Reg 261, e.g. checking in on time and flying from the EU or arriving into the EU on an EU airline. With cancelled flights, you may only claim if you found out about the cancellation because of strikes less than two weeks before your flight.
What are my rights if baggage handlers or airport staff strike?
Flight strike compensation claims are very much dependent on who calls the strike. When it comes to baggage handlers or airport staff, the law is not 100% clear and it’s likely that these claims would need to go to court for a judge to decide.
The airline may argue that these strikes are ‘extraordinary’ and refuse to pay compensation as a result. This can make it difficult for passengers to claim any monetary compensation, which is one of the reasons we set up our claims service.
Even if the delay or cancellation is considered extraordinary, you’re still entitled to an alternative flight or a refund, providing the delay/cancellation meets the EU Reg 261 criteria.
What are my rights if my flights are delayed by strikes?
Under EU Reg 261, you may be able to claim monetary compensation if your flight is delayed by 3 hours or more. This applies to flights on any airline taking off from an EU airport, or flights with an EU carrier landing in the EU.
You can expect reasonable care and assistance at the airport for delays (see below). You may not be able to claim monetary compensation, however, if the airline claims “extraordinary circumstances”. This include extreme weather, political instability, or safety/security risks.
You may also be able to claim if a strike has a knock-on effect on your flight. For example, if a strike happened the day before your flight and was lifted the day after, you could claim compensation for any resulting delays.
What are my rights if my flight is cancelled due to strikes?
Your airline must offer you a full refund if your flight is cancelled, regardless of when they informed you. You also have the right to ask for a rerouted flight, or if you’re transferring, a flight back to your departure destination.
Again, you will not be able to claim monetary compensation for extraordinary circumstances. However, the European Court has ruled that strikes called by airline staff are within the airline’s control. Therefore, they should offer you monetary compensation in addition to the above.
What care and assistance can I get at the airport?
After a delay of 2 hours or more (including if you are waiting only to be told your flight is cancelled), it is your airline’s obligation to provide adequate care and assistance. This might be provided in vouchers for food and drink, but if you don’t receive any, keep your receipts and claim these back.
Generally, your airline should offer you a “reasonable amount of food and drink” relative to your waiting time, plus two phone calls, emails or faxes. For delays of 5 hours of more, you can get a refund or ask for alternative transportation, or even stay in overnight accommodation if relevant.
How the airline will help
Up to 3,500km
Food and drink plus two phone calls, emails or faxes.
Food and drink plus two phone calls, emails or faxes. Opportunity to withdraw from flight with full reimbursement and alternative transportation.
Overnight accommodation in a nearby hotel with transport to and from the airport.
What should my airline do if a strike is imminent?
It is your airline’s responsibility to notify you of imminent strikes as soon as possible. However, you can only make additional monetary claims if you find out less than 14 days in advance, and there are no “extraordinary circumstances”.
Your airline should be prepared to offer you a full refund or alternative flight.
What should I do if industrial action is planned?
If you have written confirmation of a proposed strike, you should make the following arrangements:
- Book a replacement flight: only do this if you have formal confirmation. If you’re not sure, shop around for flights and book when the airline confirms. They will refund you for the original flight.
- Cancel flexible flights: if you have a refundable ticket, you may wish to refund this rather than processing a claim through the airline afterward. Again, wait until you have confirmation.
- Notify all other booked services: if you still intend to travel, let any hotels, rental cars or other booked services know of any changes to your plans. Your insurance should cover cancellations.
- Check your travel insurance: if any booked services tell you your booking is non-refundable, you could claim these costs back on travel insurance. (Your airline will compensate for the flights.) Try to make alternative arrangements first to save time. For package holidays, your tour operator can arrange refunds.
Credit cards and Section 75 – your rights
Under Section 75 of the Consumer Protection Act, your credit card provider can protect you if things go wrong. This is why many credit cards have fees – they are liable to pay out for anything over the value of £100 in undesirable circumstances.
For example, if you booked you and your family a trip away for a wedding, and strikes meant it could not go ahead, the credit card company would be liable to pay all associated costs. Similarly, if you decide to buy a replacement flight, your credit card company can compensate you for the value of this – even if it costs more than the original.