Flight Delays Caused By Airline Strikes – Can You Claim Compensation When Industrial Action Affects Your Travel Plans?

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European Regulation 261/2004 was established to protect the rights of air passengers, giving consumers the right to compensation for delayed or cancelled flights. In this guide, we look into the rights of passengers when they are affected by strikes.

EU 261/2004 was established to protect the rights of air passengers, giving consumers the right to claim compensation for a delayed flight. Additionally, the law extends to those who may want to claim compensation for a cancelled flight.

EU 261 has been written into UK law at the end of the Brexit transition period, meaning you have exactly the same rights to claim flight compensation as you did when the UK were members of the EU.

The only difference is now the compensation will be paid in UK Pounds rather than Euros.

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The regulation covers flights taking off from a UK or EU airport on any airline, and flights with an EU carrier that are landing at an EU airport and allows passengers to claim a fixed sum amount (according the duration of delay and length of flight) for delays over three hours, denied boarding, or cancellations.

For those wanting to dig deeper into the laws, take a look at our article on EU Regulation 261/2004.

The regulation outlines several instances, termed “extraordinary circumstances”, where airlines are not liable to pay out under EC261/2004.

The Regulation lists the following examples of circumstances that may be extraordinary:

  • Political instability
  • Meteorological conditions incompatible with the operation of the flight concerned
  • Security risks
  • Unexpected flight safety shortcomings
  • Strikes that affect the operation of an operating air carrier.

The fact remains however that these circumstances will only be extraordinary if the airline can prove that they were both not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the airline, and beyond its actual control.

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My Flight Has Been Delayed Or Cancelled Due To Air Traffic Control Strikes

Air traffic control (ATC) are the people that make sure planes are taking off and landing safely at airports. The law is less clear and it is likely that court proceedings would be required in order to decide on the specific circumstances of your case.

Sometimes airlines operate under certain ATC restrictions in situations where the flow of planes taking off and landing needs to be reduced – say for example in extreme fog or high winds. Delays caused by this action would usually fall under extraordinary circumstances and would not be claimable.

My Flight Has Been Delayed Or Cancelled Due To Airline Staff Strikes

The European Court has ruled that when airline staff go in strike this is not an extraordinary circumstance because it is both an event which is inherent in the running of an airline and also within its control.

This means that you can claim compensation for delays or cancellations caused by the airline staff going on strike.

If it’s another organisation going on strike, such as baggage handlers or air traffic control then the law is less clear and it is likely that court proceedings would be required in order to decide on the specific circumstances of your case.

Occasionally the staff that work for an airline can go on strike to demand better pay or working conditions. BA staff have threatened strike action several times over the last few years and there have also been airline or pilot strikes in France.

My Flight Has Been Delayed By Over Two Hours Due To Industrial Action

In addition to the compensation you are also entitled to the following:

  • Meals and refreshments in reasonable relation to the waiting time
  • Hotel accommodation in cases where a stay of one night or more becomes necessary
  • Transport between the airport and the accommodation
  • Two telephone calls, telex or fax messages or email

The qualifying delay time before these rights kick in is two, three, or four hours for flight distances of up to 1500km, between 1500-3500km, and over 3500km respectively.

The above list of entitlements on a long haul flight from Heathrow to Los Angeles for example, would only kick in if the delay reaches 4 hours.  Up until that point you’d have to buy your own food and drink – although you could still claim compensation once the delay hits the 3-hour mark.

My Flight Has Been Delayed By More Than Five Hours Due To Industrial Action

If your flight is delayed by more than five hours you have the right to a refund of the cost of your ticket. If you take up this offer you cannot then claim compensation afterwards.

My Flight Has Been Cancelled Due To Industrial Action

If your flight is cancelled, you are automatically entitled to the care and assistance set out above (meals, accommodation, transport etc). In addition to this you are entitled to re-routing at the earliest opportunity, or for a refund and a return to your original departure point (ie If you are flying from London Heathrow to Sydney via Charles de Gaulle and industrial action leaves you stranded in Paris, you can request to be flown back to London).

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My Flight Has Been Delayed Or Cancelled Due To A Baggage Handler/Airport Staff Strike

Airport staff including baggage handlers threatened to strike in the run up to Christmas 2016 at all the biggest airports in the UK. While this action was eventually called off after talks, strikes by airport staff and baggage handlers can cause severe disruptions to airline schedules.

The law is less clear and it is likely that court proceedings would be required in order to decide on the specific circumstances of your case.

My Flight Has Been Delayed Or Cancelled Due To Airline Crew Or Pilot Sickness

If your flight is cancelled or delayed because of sickness affecting the cabin crew or even the pilot, then this type of delay is claimable under Regulation 261/2004 and eligible for flight delay compensation.

Crew and pilot sickness cases were tested at court in the UK in 2015 and we saw another victory for passenger rights as the court ruled these cases were not ‘extraordinary’.

This means you are able to submit your claim through our flight delay compensation calculator and we’ll recover your compensation if your flight was disrupted by crew or pilot sickness.

Please contact us for further information or enter your flight details into our flight claim checker if you are in doubt over your particular circumstance and whether you can claim compensation.

Meet The Team
Coby Benson Head Of Flight Compensation Team At Bott and Co

Coby Benson

A member of The Law Society, Coby helped establish the flight delay compensation sector in the UK.

His work has been recognised throughout the industry, winning numerous awards, including The Manchester Law Society Associate of the Year. Coby has been a key speaker on Flight Compensation, appearing on Sky News, BBC Radio and national newspapers as a flight delay expert.

*Based on 10,211 court proceedings issued between May 2013 and February 2016.