Airline Strikes: How Will They Affect You?

A cheap ticket is worthless if your airline is on strike

Planning a trip to Europe would not be complete if you didn’t keep potential transportation strikes in mind. After all, it won’t matter that you scored really cheap airfare if the flight is cancelled because the pilots want more vacation.

Summer is typically the busiest season for strikes in Europe. in France and Italy in particular but given recent economic uncertainty and potential cost-cutting measures by airlines in the wake of falling revenue, be prepared for a strike to pop up anytime.



August 2011 Spanish baggage handlers had threatened to strike on what were projected as two of the busiest travel days for the country. The first day was to have been Aug. 18, when Pope Benedict was scheduled to visit Madrid; over 1 million people were expected to visit for the event. The second was on Aug. 26, the date when many Spaniards were returning home from vacations.
August 2011 German air traffic controllers had planned a six-hour strike, which would’ve affected travel plans for 400,000 passengers. The walkout was cancelled.
July 2011 Air France flight attendants and French pilots strikes were cancelled. A mechanics strike in June affected some long-haul flights.
June 2011 Air traffic controllers in Athens, Greece, staged two four-hour walkouts, canceling dozens of flights.
March 2011 Pilots of TAP Portugal called for a four-day strike, which was cancelled.
December 2010-January 2011 Cabin crew for British Airways went on strike for 22 days, costing the airline an estimated $242.7 million and affecting hundreds of thousands of passengers.
April 2010 Cabin crews for Air France had planned a four-day strike, which was called off when they agreed to return to the bargaining table.
March 2010 Pilots, flight attendants and baggage handlers of Alitalia went on strike for four hours, canceling and delaying flights across Italy
February 2010 Pilots for Lufthansa went on strike, stranding thousands of passengers until a judge intervened and the union agreed to end the strike.

How to protect yourself from airline strikes and walkouts

In the airline industry, you’ll find everyone from pilots to crew members to baggage handlers to air traffic controllers threatening walkouts. And your ground transportation can be affected too, as bus, cab and rail strikes are also common.

Transportation strikes can result in flight delays and cancellations, and they could affect you getting to a flight on time when, for instance, a strike on the subway system results in you arriving at the airport after your flight left.

So what’s a traveler to do? Here are some tips:

1. Do your homework.

Before booking your flights to and around Europe, it’s wise to do a web search of the word “strike” along with airline you’re using, and the country and cities you are visiting to find out if there are any planned.

Airline strike causes passenger delaysYou can also stay up to date on the latest transportation strikes and threats on, which provides news about travel-related labor unrest around the globe.

2. Consider travel insurance.

If you are traveling in a region that is prone to strikes (or you already know about planned walkouts), it’s not a bad idea to purchase travel insurance.

Keep in mind that most insurance companies will only cover strikes if you purchased the policy prior to the strike being announced. After the fact, you’re out of luck (which is why it pays to do some research beforehand).

Some insurance providers offer “Cancel For Any Reason” coverage, which protects you if your trip is cancelled for any reason not otherwise covered by the policy (so, for instance, depending on the provider it could offer coverage if a flight is cancelled as a result of a strike that had been scheduled before you purchased your tickets.)

Before purchasing any travelers insurance, make sure to compare the policy and rates of a few different providers to get the best coverage.

3. Don’t let strike threats ruin your plans.

While it’s wise to do your research and create necessary contingency plans if walkouts are threatened, don’t let them dampen your zeal for adventure.

In places like Greece, Italy and France, protests are a part of everyday life; they offer you a unique glimpse into that country’s culture. Who knows, witnessing people take to the streets to fight for better wages or working conditions, might inspire you to become more of an activist at home.

Not to mention, you might be forced into a new experience if a regional airline is shut down because of a labor dispute, why not see Europe by rail instead?




Published: September 15, 2011