Travel advice on . . . air traffic control strikes
Protect yourself by adding travel disruption to your travel insurance policy
April has been heavily hit by air traffic controls (ATC) strikes in France, Belgium, Italy and Greece. The disruption this causes travellers is monumental.
The fact that in some cases flights cannot overfly other countries means strikes have a wider knock-on effect. When French ATC goes on strike, which they do frequently – 43 since 2009 and five in the past month – everyone else is picking up the cost. In many countries ATC is not allowed to strike or must give a notice period before it does. Ryanair are backing a petition called “Keep Europe’s Skies Open”, to garner 1,000,000 signatures to urge the European Parliament and European Commission to take action. The petition calls for the banning of strikes by ATC and the advancing of claims by mediation and binding arbitration.
The best scenario is to hope that your flight is not cancelled. If it is cancelled you will only be entitled to the cost you paid refunded or a change to a later date. If you have to pay for a new flight there is no compensation.
If your flight is just delayed, then terms of the EU261 Disruption Compensation kicks in. The airline will be responsible for feeding you, providing accommodation if necessary and getting you to your destination.
Trying to anticipate when strikes might happen is a guessing game, but French controllers, the most disruptive, are known to target bank holidays weekends and the beginning and end of school holidays – but not always.
You can protect yourself from some of the additional costs that you may have to pay by adding travel disruption to your travel insurance policy. It does not cost a huge amount and one disrupted flight could be enough to cover the additional cost.