With record inflation meaning real-terms wages have fallen by a record amount, the cost of living crisis has spawned major strike action across the UK.
But industrial action is not exclusive to our shores, as Europe also faces major inflationary challenges. These have been most notable to us when they affect flights.
Over the summer, cancellations severely hit UK airports and popular airlines, like EasyJet and Ryanair, as a result of industrial action in France and Spain.
Now, Italy’s airports are launching new strike action after having walked out earlier this year. Air traffic controllers and ground handling staff set to walk out over pay and conditions this week. But which carriers could see cancellations - and what can you do if you’re affected? Here’s what you need to know.
Which flights could be cancelled?
The strike action in Italy is due to take place for 24 hours on Friday (21 October). It will affect some of the country’s biggest airports, including Rome, Naples, Turin and Milan. According to Italy’s civil aviation authority (ENAC), a small number of flights will be guaranteed between 7am to 10am and pm to 9pm.
The carriers most likely to be affected include:
- ITA Airways
- British Airways
Much of the dispute is aimed at Italy’s airspace management company ENAV, although one part of it will see Vueling’s pilots and flight attendants walk out in Rome.
ITA Airways - which runs services to and from Heathrow and London City airports - has already cancelled more than 200 domestic and international flights, most of which are travelling to and from Rome. More than a dozen of the airline’s flights to and from London airports are expected to be affected.
EasyJet has also forewarned of disruption. In a statement on its website, it said: “Like most airlines operating to and from Italy, we may see some disruption to our flight schedules on [Friday].
“We advise anyone travelling to, from or within Italy on Friday 21 October to allow additional time to travel to and from the airport and to check the status of their flights on our Flight Tracker on our mobile app or website.
“Should any flights be cancelled then we will contact you via email and SMS using the details provided at the time of booking and check in. Although this is outside of our control, we would like to reassure you that we are doing all we can to minimise any disruption that may occur as a result of the strike action.”
What can you do if your flight is cancelled?
EasyJey advises that if your flight gets cancelled, you should not go to the airport. Instead, it says customers should transfer their flight, request a voucher or ask for a refund by logging into its website. The process is free of charge.
The other airlines which could be hit by the strike action have not yet given out any public advice on what their service status will be. It is worth contacting them directly and ensuring they have your most up-to-date contact information.
If your flight is delayed by strike action, you are entitled to help from your airline if it is an EU or UK-based carrier. If the industrial action is carried out by the carrier’s own staff (e.g. Vueling, in this case), you are entitled to compensation - although the point at which they are obliged to compensate you depends on the length of your journey.
Say you are flying to anywhere north of Rome (i.e. a journey of less than 1,500km), a delay of two hours or more requires compensation. If you are flying further south, the delay has to be three hours or more.
Compensation includes: food and drink, access to phone calls and emails, or accommodation if you’re delayed overnight (plus transfers between the airport and the hotel). It will be dispensed directly by the airline at the airport, usually in the form of vouchers.
If they do not provide assistance, you should keep hold of any receipts for reasonable expenses (e.g. food and drink) to claim back at a later date. If the delay meets the thresholds set out above, the airlines are legally required to help you.
Should you arrive at your destination more than three hours late because of an issue that is the airline’s fault (e.g. strike action), you can get £220 compensation for flights travelling up to 1,500km (north and central Italy) or £350 for those going more than 1,500km (southern Italy and Sicily).
Strikes by airport staff, like air traffic controllers, are considered to be beyond the airline’s control and they are therefore not obliged to give you your money back. But if the strike action ends and there are still delays (e.g. the following day), the airline has to cough up.
If your flight is cancelled outright, it was as a result of strike action by the airline’s own staff, you were not given more than two weeks’ warning, and it delayed your arrival at your destination by two or more hours, you are legally entitled - under the Denied Boarding Regulations - to either:
- a full refund - including other flights from the airline that you won’t use in the same booking, such as return flights
- a replacement flight to get you to your destination (the airline must book you on a route that’s as close to your original journey timings as possible)
- if you’re part-way through a journey and you don’t want a replacement flight, you also have a right to a flight back to the airport you flew out of.
For refunds or replacement flights, it’s best to ask for them at the airport - if you can. You also have a legal right to:
- help with costs - if the cancellation delays you by two-plus hours
- compensation - if you’d be delayed two or more hours by the replacement flight offered and you were given under two weeks’ notice by the airline
Further advice can be found on the Citizens Advice website.