Strikes affecting air travel can be extremely annoying and a huge inconvenience to passengers. And the worst part? In most cases, strikes fall under the category of “extraordinary circumstances”, AKA the ultimate Get Out Of Jail free card for airlines.
According to EU Regulation 261/2004, airlines aren’t obliged to compensate if they can prove the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances that could not have been avoided even if all reasonable steps had been taken.
So, for example, at the end of May this year, air traffic controllers in Italy went on strike near the G-7 summit in Sicily. Multiple airlines faced flight delays and cancellations as a result. And unfortunately for passengers in this case, no compensation could be claimed.
Why? Because this strike is no fault of any specific airline, and no reasonable precautions could have prevented it nor its effects from happening.
However, even if compensation is not due, airlines still have a duty of care to passengers.
In any case of a strike, whether it’s extraordinary or not, here are your entitlements:
For delays over 2 hours with a flight distance of up to 1500km, over 3 hours for flights between 1500km-3500km, and over 4 hours for flights over 3500km:
- Meals and refreshments
- Accommodation if a stay of one night or more is necessary
- Transport between the airport and the accommodation
- Two telephone calls, fax messages or email
If your flight is cancelled, you are also entitled to re-routing or a full refund of the ticket price + a return to your original point of departure.
The current BA strike, which is part of an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions by BA cabin crew, is different for two main reasons:
- It is a strike by the airline’s staff, therefore somewhat within their control
- It was pre-planned, meaning that, technically, BA had reasonable time to minimise the effect on its passengers
The Civil Aviation Authority has also stated that it is unlikely this airline strike can be deemed an extraordinary circumstance. So, despite the fact that BA have so far declined to comment on whether or not it will pay passengers compensation for ensuing delays, we strongly encourage affected travelers to open a claim.