After a failed injunction by the airline in an attempt to prevent strikes, the 48 hour Lufthansa cabin crew walkouts that started yesterday have caused untold chaos to thousands of passengers’ travel plans. Yesterday alone, 700 flights were cancelled, including 30 scheduled to depart from and arrive into the UK, with 4,000 passengers left stranded.
But it’s set to get a lot worse before the situation improves; up to 1,300 flights could be cancelled, affecting 180,000 passengers. This amounts to around one in five flights cancelled, as 6,000 Lufthansa journeys were scheduled for take off over the two day period. What’s more, lasting impact could continue well into the weekend due to a knock on effect of the cancellations.
Reminiscent of the September strikes of British Airways pilots, the strikes have arisen from contention over pay and working conditions, with the German flight attendant union UFO at odds with the airline. The Lufthansa Group has reported that their earnings were down to €1.3billion from €1.4billion for the same summer period in 2018.
Flights are being grounded internationally, including some flights from Lufthansa’s main operation base of Frankfurt to New York, San Francisco, Washington and Vancouver. UFO’s Vice President Daniel Flohr has warned that further strikes could come “at any time.”
Based on informed calculations, Bott and Co has estimated that the industrial action could prove to be hugely costly for the German carrier, and in turn, extremely lucrative for passengers, with a potential €66million owed by the airline.
Passengers Could Claim Up To 600 Euros In Flight Delay Compensation
Coby Benson, Flight Delay Compensation Solicitor at Bott and Co says, “With news of the strikes set to affect thousands of passengers, it is likely that this is going to be extremely costly for Lufthansa. Cabin crew strikes are well within the airline’s control and simply an inherent part of running an airline, therefore not considered to be an extraordinary circumstance under EU Regulation 261/2004.
Affected passengers may be entitled to claim compensation of up to €600 each, where their flights are cancelled with less than 14 days’ notice or delayed for over three hours. It’s also worth noting that the regulation does not specify that re-routing has to be with the same air carrier. Therefore, passengers affected by a cancelled flight should be re-routed by the airline responsible at the earliest available opportunity on ANY airline, not just a Lufthansa plane.”
Airlines Have A Duty To Re-route Passengers At The Earliest Opportunity
Although it seems that passengers are gradually becoming more familiar with their rights regarding flight delay compensation under EU Regulation 261/2004, it seems most are in the dark surrounding airlines’ other obligations. If travel plans have unravelled at the fault of the airline, which in this case is true as the strikes could have been avoidable, airlines must re-route anybody stranded at the earliest available opportunity, even if that means booking travel with another airline.
So in this case, passengers shouldn’t have to wait until the next Lufthansa plane is available; if possible, another option should be provided that is more convenient to the flier. Not only this, but there is a legal obligation that airlines provide “care and assistance” to passengers waiting at the airport. Food and drink vouchers should be provided as well as means for passengers to communicate, including being entitled to a telephone call and an email. Accommodation must be provided if passengers are delayed overnight and transport to and from the accommodation and the airport must also be provided.
One Final Warning: If You’re Affected, Keep All Receipts
If you’re stuck in limbo at the airport, your airline is expected to cover you for “reasonable” expenses. It is paramount that you retain any receipts from airport purchases so that you can be reimbursed. Bott and Co provides a free expenses template to assist you in recovering these extra costs from your own pocket.