Business

What's going on with my holiday flights?

Passengers wait near airport check-in counters Image copyright Getty Images

A series of disputes over working conditions in the airline sector is causing misery for UK holidaymakers.

Possible strike action by staff at firms including British Airways and Ryanair, as well as a number of UK airports, has put hundreds of flights at risk of cancellation.

The disruption has led this year's holiday season to be described as a "summer of strikes".

Some of the disputes may continue throughout the summer.

Ryanair pilots: Strikes planned

The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) has set strike dates for UK-based Ryanair pilots in August and September.

Pilots will strike across two periods:

  • Thursday 22 August and Friday 23 August
  • Throughout Monday 2 September to Wednesday 4 September

Balpa has highlighted issues with staff pensions, maternity benefits and the need for a fair, transparent, and consistent pay structure as grounds for the action.

Balpa's general secretary's Brian Strutton said: "No pilot wants to spoil the public's travel plans but at the moment it seems we have no choice."

Ryanair argues that it recently agreed a 20% salary increase, and says it has "written to Balpa asking them to return to talks".

Heathrow workers: Strike planned

A strike planned for Tuesday 6 August was suspended after Heathrow made an improved pay offer to workers.

Organised by Unite the Union, 4,000 workers had been expected to take part.

Unite, the UK and Ireland's largest union, said it would not be revealing details of the offer until its members had voted on the new package.

A further 48-hour walkout was scheduled on Friday 23 August and Saturday 24 August, but that has been postponed to allow union members to consider a revised pay offer.

There will now be a new ballot for strike action, closing on Monday 2 September.

British Airways pilots: Talks ongoing

Balpa also represent pilots for British Airways, who are currently locked in a disagreement over pay.

British Airways lost an appeal on 31 July aimed at halting planned strike action - opening the way for the pilots to name dates for a potential strike.

In July, BA offered pilots a pay increase worth 11.5% over three years, which was accepted by Unite and GMB, but rejected by Balpa.

The talks are ongoing, and no dates for strike action have been announced.

Gatwick security staff: Talks ongoing

Security workers at Gatwick airport suspended strike action on 7 August after receiving a "dramatically improved pay offer".

Members of Unite who are employed by ICTS (UK) were due to stage a 48-hour strike starting 6:00am on Saturday 10 August, with a further four day strike scheduled to begin on Tuesday 20 August.

Unite says workers are being balloted with the recommendation to accept.

Stansted check-in staff: Deal agreed

Unite the Union, on behalf of check-in staff at Stansted Airport, agreed a pay deal on 1 August, averting action that could have affected thousands of EasyJet passengers.

Unite said that the package amounted to a 13% pay rise for most of the workforce for the year starting April 2019, and recognition of Unite as the trade union for collective bargaining purposes.

A strike by check-in staff was due to have started on Friday 2 August.

What can I claim if my flight has been affected?

If your flight has been cancelled, you should contact your airline to organise what to do next.

An airline should offer a refund or a replacement flight (possibly on another carrier) to your destination - whomever is striking. Generally, if you are part way through a journey, and do not want a replacement flight, you are entitled to a flight back to the airport you originally departed from.

Those are the minimum requirements for ticket holders.

In some cases, passengers may be entitled to additional cash compensation for the inconvenience - but only if you receive notice that your flight is affected less than 14 days before departure.

So, if your flight has been significantly delayed or cancelled because airline staff are striking, then this is considered within the airline's control, according to the Civil Aviation Authority - and therefore passengers can claim this extra compensation under EU rules.

The amount paid in this additional compensation depends on the length of delay, cancellation, and the distance of the flight. These are explained in detail on the Civil Aviation Authority website. Remember, it is only paid if passengers are informed less than 14 days before they fly.

However, if your flight has been cancelled owing to airport (rather than airline) staff striking, it is unlikely you will be able to claim extra compensation as this would be considered "extraordinary circumstances" outside of the airline's control.

The CAA adds that the airport is not obliged to pay compensation directly to passengers, and whether the airport gives its customers (the airlines) compensation is a commercial issue between the two parties.


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