|Photo by Freeimages.com/Narisara Niemwongse|
by Soo Kim, The Daily Telegraph, June 28, 2016
Thousands of holidaymakers are expected to see their journeys disrupted by a wave of air traffic control (ATC) strikes across Europe this summer.
“European travellers face a summer of chaos, disruption and ruined holidays due to ATC strikes....nine strike days have been confirmed for June and July [last week] and they surely won’t be the last,” warned Thomas Reynaert, the managing director of A4E (Airlines for Europe), the Brussels-based airline association.
Today's French air strike, the 12th in the past 13 weeks, which is expected to last until 5am GMT (4am UTC) on June 29, has seen the cancellation of hundreds of flights to, from and over France, including 66 Ryanair flights and 56 easyJet flights, while British Airways reports the industrial action is affecting some of its flights today.
— EUROCONTROL (@eurocontrol) June 28, 2016
Last week's French air strike forced airlines to cancel more than 200 flights, including several routes to and from Britain, affecting passengers heading to France, Spain, Switzerland and Italy. Eight more strikes are in place for Italy and Portugal over the next few weeks, with more than 1,000 flights at risk of being cancelled, according to A4E.
Airlines have warned passengers of expected delays and disruptions to their journeys and advised travellers with instructions for rebooking their cancelled flights due to the latest French air strike.
“Unfortunately, further flight delays and cancellations are likely and customers are asked to please monitor this notice which will be updated throughout the day,” Ryanair said.
French strike action 27 June 17:00 - 29 June 04:00 affecting French flights & flights over French airspace. Check with airlines for info
— Gatwick Airport LGW (@Gatwick_Airport) June 27, 2016
Ryanair's cancelled routes, which is said to have affected 30,000 passengers, include several from London Gatwick to Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Seville, while flights between Dublin and Madrid, Carcassone, Biarritz, Rodez, Nice and Nantes were also reported to have been cancelled. The airline expects more than 100,000 other passengers will "suffer severe delays" from the latest ATC industrial action.
Industrial action in France is affecting some of our flights today. Check your flight status here https://t.co/b0LigM30Tr [06:05 28JUN]
— British Airways (@British_Airways) 28 June 2016
Gatwick is advising travellers to check with their airlines for more information, while Eurocontrol, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, reports "high flight delays" and "capacity issues" at Gatwick due to the industrial action, and "moderate-hight flight delays" at London City airport.
Aer Lingus has cancelled 12 flights, include flights to and from Dublin to Barcelona, Marseille, Noce, Bordeaux and Perpignan.
“EasyJet can assure its passengers it will do everything possible to limit the inconvenience of this strike on them," easyJet, 65 per cent of whose flights fly over France, said in a statement.
"We will communicate to customers affected directly via SMS using the details provided at the time of booking," the airline said yesterday .
"For cancelled flights only, we advise customers not to travel to the airport but to transfer their flights free of charge or take a refund by logging onto Manage Bookings on easyJet.com or our Flight Tracker: easyjet.com/ XXXX(yourflightnumber).
"If overnight accommodation is required, affected passengers can book this on Tuesday [June 28] through our Flight Tracker page easyjet.com /XXXX (flight number)," the company added.
“Unfortunately we will have to cancel some flights as a result of the strike action and other short-haul flights may also experience some disruption," British Airways (BA) said yesterday in a statement .
"If you are due to fly to or from any French airport (including Madrid and Barcelona) on Tuesday June 28, regardless of whether your flight is operating or not, you can move it back to a date up to and including Friday July 1. All rebookings are subject to availability.
“We will be using larger aircraft, where possible, to help affected customers and are doing all we can to reduce the levels of disruption,” BA added.
Air France warned yesterday : "Delays are expected on our flights and last-minute cancellations can also be foreseen."
"We invite you to privilege check-in online. Please take your precautions to arrive at the airport as public transportation could be disrupted.
"Before going to the airport, we advise you to check flight and train information updated in real-time on our website," the airline said.
Monarch Airlines announced its plan to operate its flights on a full schedule.
“Whilst we anticipate that there may be a disruption, we plan to operate a full schedule and would like to advise customers to check-in online where they can or arrive at the airport in plenty of time to check in for your flights,” Monarch Airlines said yesterday .
The Foreign Office (FCO) is also warning travellers about ongoing transport strikes in Paris and France today.
“Transport strikes continue to affect some rail services across France and in Paris. Nationwide protests have been announced for June 28. You can find real time information on rail traffic on the SNCF website, and on Paris metro and bus systems on the RATP website,” the FCO said .
Strikes in Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands
ATC strikes are reported to take place in Portugal for two hours a day on June 30 as well as July 8, 15, 22 and 29, Eurocontrol reported today, while Madrid is also reportedly taking industrial action on June 28 and 29 at Adolfo Suárez Barajas airport, The Local reported earlier this month.
While the previously announced air strikes in Greece for June 20 and 25 have been suspended, “there are regular strikes, sometimes called at short notice, that can cause disruption to public transport (including air travel and ports),” the FCO warned .
"Demonstrations take place regularly in central Athens, and have also taken place in other towns and cities. There may also be demonstrations in reaction to developments in Greece’s negotiations with its international creditors. You should avoid all demonstrations and follow the advice given by local security authorities, " it added.
Pre-notice for industrial action in Portugal received for 2 hours daily: 30 June; 8, 15, 22, 29 July https://t.co/Vfl5FqwyMf
— EUROCONTROL (@eurocontrol) June 28, 2016
The next ATC strike in Italy is reported to take place on July 23, "which could result in even more flight cancellations during one of the busiest summer holiday travel days," according to A4E. Further details on the planned industrial action in Italy this summer are yet to be reported.
The ATC strikes in Greece, Italy, Belgium and France since March has led to more than 3,000 flight cancellations among the airline members of A4E, resulting in more than a million minutes (more than 16,000 hours) in flight delays across all airlines operating in European aerospace, A4E reports.
Airline chiefs are gathering today in Brussels to discuss how to minimise the impact of ATC strikes. The chief executives of easyJet, Ryanair and BA parent company IAG are among those attending the summit organised by A4E.
“There is nothing stopping further ATC strikes ‐ we need urgent action to stop these controllers from infringing on people’s rights and destroying their holiday plans,” Mr Reynaert said last week.
“We will call for immediate action to prevent the holidays of European families being spoilt by these strikes which cause uncertainty and disruption for our customers,” he added.
"The frequency of these strikes, right in the middle of the holiday season, only serves to underline how urgent action is required to help reduce the impact of these strikes," said Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair's chief marketing officer.
Your rights: what to do if your flight is affected
Is my flight affected?
The best source of information is your airline's website. It will usually have prominent links on its homepage outlining which flights, if any, are affected. If you've booked a package holiday, contact your tour operator.
Am I entitled to a refund if my airline cancels my flight?
Yes. European Union regulations require airlines to offer you either a full refund of the unused parts of your tickets, or to re-route you to your destination, as soon as possible. Some airlines may also allow you to rebook your flights for a later date at no extra cost.
Will I get compensation?
Airlines are not liable to pay the additional cash compensation set out by EU regulations because they are not directly responsible for the disruption.
What should I do if I am stranded abroad?
EU regulations make it clear that, when a flight with an EU airline or from an EU airport is cancelled, an airline is liable to pay for the cost of a hotel and subsistence for all those stranded as a result, until a replacement flight is provided. Should your airline advise you to buy your own food and accommodation, keep all receipts, and keep such costs to a reasonable minimum, before making a claim when you get back to Britain.
What about package holidays?
Those passengers on package holidays who are stranded in a destination should be looked after by their tour operator, and the operator is legally obliged to get them home. Customers will usually be allowed to stay in their original hotel, or will be moved to one of a similar standard on a half-board or all-inclusive basis. The exact situation will depend on the operator’s booking terms and conditions.
Am I covered by my travel insurance?
Your policy may pay out a small amount for very long delays (usually over 12 hours), but not usually enough to pay for more than a meal or two. A few policies have cover for a “consequential loss”, such as a hotel booking made independently. You will need to check the terms and conditions which apply to your policy directly with your insurer.
This article was written by Soo Kim from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.