If your flight is cancelled or delayed due to a strike, the air carrier has to offer you care and assistance, as well as alternative transportation to your final destination. In addition, under EU Regulation 261/2004 you may be eligible for compensation
Flight Compensation Regulation 261
EU Regulation 261 establishes commons standards for air travel in the European Union. It covers all flights departing from the EU, as well as flights arriving at EU airports when they are operated by EU-based air carriers.
In addition, the regulation imposes obligations on airlines and defines air travellers’ rights to care and assistance, rerouting and reimbursement, and, in certain cases, compensation. Amongst a host of other guidelines, Regulation 261 also sets forth the rules for claiming compensation for a flight delay due to strikes.
According to EU rules, you are entitled to compensation if the airline has not taken all reasonable measures to avoid an event that leads to:
So, flight disruptions caused by overbooking, technical issues or missing flight documentation, for example, can lead to a compensation of up to €250/€400/€600 depending on the flight distance/destination.
However, airlines are freed from the obligation to pay such compensation if the flight disruption was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’. This term applies to any event that is neither
- inherent in the daily activities of the airline, nor
- under the control of the airline.
Could passengers claim compensation for a cancellation or flight delay caused by a strike?
To answer this question, we first need to clarify the following term:
Circumstances that are deemed outside the airline’s control include:
- Natural disasters
- Political or civil unrest
- Adverse weather conditions
- Hidden manufacturing defects
- Security risks
- Medical emergencies
- Union and airport personnel strikes
Note that not all personnel strikes fall under the term ‘extraordinary circumstances’. The regulation does not discuss industrial action in detail so eligibility for compensation for delays due to strikes depends on the specific circumstances as well as precedent.
Until 2018, all strikes used to be considered ‘extraordinary circumstances’. However, a European Court of Justice ruling from April 2018 set a precedent by determining that a ‘wildcat’ strike lies within the responsibility of the airline.
In the remainder of this article, we will explore if you can claim flight compensation for the following strikes:
Flight delayed or cancelled due to airline staff strike
As a result of the April 2018 judgement, air passengers can claim flight delay compensation if a strike results from the air carrier’s direct actions.
What is a wildcat strike?
Unlike union strikes, air traffic control strikes or airport staff strikes, industrial action of airline staff (cabin crew and pilots) resulting from a decision of the air carrier does not constitute extraordinary circumstances. Staff management is inherent in the activities of the airline and lies within its control. Therefore, affected passengers are eligible for compensation.
When can I claim flight compensation in the event of industrial action?
If a ‘wildcat’ airline staff strike results in a cancellation or a delay of your flight by more than 3 hours, you may be eligible for flight compensation.
Strikes: Compensation for flights delayed by more than 3 hours
If you reach your final destination more than 3 hours behind schedule due to a wildcat strike, you can claim delayed flight compensation. The airline will also have to offer you food and drink vouchers and assistance (two free phone calls/ emails).
Compensation for flights delayed by more than 5 hours
If the flight delay exceeds 5 hours, you have the right to abandon your journey and ask for a refund of the full cost of your booking. If you miss your connecting flight, you may also require the airline to cover the expenses for the return flight to your original departure point.
Compensation for flights cancelled due to a strike
Airlines are required to compensate travellers if a ‘wildcat’ strike causes the cancellation of their flight. In addition to this compensation, the air carrier should offer its passengers care and assistance. This includes meals and refreshments, 2 free phone calls and even accommodation (if you have to wait overnight). The airline will also have to offer you a replacement flight at the earliest opportunity or a reimbursement of the full cost of your ticket.
How much flight compensation can I claim?
Under EU Regulation 261 the compensation amount depends on the distance of your flight.
For flights under 1500 km, the compensation is set at €250.
For intra-EU flights over 1500 km and non-EU flights ranging between 1500 and 3500 km, the amount rises to €400.
If you are travelling on a long-haul non-EU flight exceeding 3500 km, the compensation is further increased to €600.
Remember that EU Regulation 261 covers all flights departing from the EU, as well as flights arriving at EU airports when they are operated by EU-based air carriers.
Note that this compensation is owed to each individual passenger. This means that if you are travelling with your family, each family member will be eligible for the corresponding amount.
Can I claim flight delay compensation due to Air traffic control strike?
Air Traffic Control is the ground-based service responsible for preventing air collisions and organizing the flow of air traffic. Their activities are not within the control and responsibility of the airline. Therefore, air traffic control strikes are seen as ‘extraordinary circumstances’.
This means that if an ATC industrial action results in a delay or cancels your flight, the airline will not have to pay compensation for the delay caused by the strike.
Can I claim flight compensation due to a baggage handler/airport staff strike?
Strike action by baggage handlers or airport staff falls under ‘extreme circumstances’ as it is not within the airline’s control. You will still have the right to information, care, rerouting or reimbursement.
Cancellation or Flight Delay due to a Strike: What are my invariable rights?
The right to information
If you booked your ticket with the airline directly, you should contact them in case of a flight delay or cancellation due to a strike.
Often airline and airport staff strikes make it into the news. In such cases of a planned industrial action, you may receive а notification from the airline if the strike affects your flight. They will use the contact details you provided during the booking process so it is a good idea to double check before submitting it. Especially if you are aware of planned strikes around the time of your departure.
Alternatively, if your flight was booked as part of a package deal, the tour operator will be responsible for notifying you and offering you a refund or replacement transport.
To minimize losses, strikes affecting airport/airline staff are addressed and negotiated through quickly, so try to keep yourself updated.
Note that airlines are obliged to inform you of your rights under EC 261 in case of flight delays, including delays caused by strikes. So in case of a long delay, cancellation, denied boarding or any other inconvenience related to airline/airport issues, head to the check-in desk and inquire about your rights.
Care and assistance
If you are stranded at the airport due to a flight delay or cancellation caused by a strike, you have the right to:
- food and drink (airlines typically offer vouchers or cover expenses when provided with receipts);
- two free phone calls, emails or fax/telex messages;
- accommodation in case of an overnight delay or cancellation, plus transportation costs to/from the hotel.
Note that this right kicks in after 2/3/4/ hours respectively for flights less than 1500 km/1500-3500 km/over 3500 km.
If the airline does not offer you meals and refreshments vouchers or suitable accommodation (in case you have to spend the night at the airport), you can arrange this for yourself. Simply, make sure you keep the receipts to declare the costs with the airline.
Remember that you are always entitled to care and assistance in case of a long delay/cancellation, even if it was caused by extraordinary circumstances.
And don’t forget that the right to care does not preclude you from claiming flight compensation in case of a wildcat strike.
Rerouting and reimbursement
If a strike causes a cancellation, airlines have to arrange:
- an alternative flight to the same destination under similar conditions at the earliest opportunity;
- an alternative flight to the same destination under similar conditions at a later time, convenient for you;
- a refund of the full ticket cost.
Under EU Regulation 261 all passengers are entitled to one of the above in case their flight has been cancelled, even if the reason is a strike that falls under the category of ‘extraordinary circumstances’.
It is worth noting that if you are placed in a higher class on this replacement flight, the airline cannot require any extra payment from you. Alternatively, if you are downgraded to a lower fare class, you may be eligible for a partial refund of your ticket cost.
Compensation for flights delayed or cancelled after the end of a strike
If your flight is disrupted by the after-effects of a strike, you are eligible for compensation.
Imagine a strike affects a number of flights on Monday. However, after negotiations, an agreement is reached and the strike ends with all flights resumed on Tuesday. If your departure date is on Tuesday and your flight is still disrupted, as this occurs after the end of the strike, you are entitled to compensation.
Note that this is the case even if the strike was considered ‘extraordinary circumstances’ as it ended before the date of your flight and did not affect your flight directly.
Having your flight cancelled or delayed due to a strike may be very stressful and frustrating. SkyRefund is here to help you know and enforce your rights.
If you are still uncertain whether you are eligible for compensation, you can use our free compensation calculator. Simply follow these steps: