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Airport and airline strikes: will you get your money back?

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Summer is in full swing but potential strike action by both airline and airport staff could put a dent in holidaymakers’ travel plans.

Although strikes by 4,000 Heathrow workers set for this weekend have been called off, British Airways yesterday lost a legal attempt to block pilots striking over a pay dispute. BA plans to appeal, but it means staff could start walk-outs from August.

Gatwick workers are also voting on strike action as are some EasyJet and Ryanair staff.

But what are consumers’ rights when industrial action means they can’t travel. And can they get their money back?

We asked Emma Coulthurst of holiday price comparison site TravelSupermarket to explain…

Changing your plans to avoid a potential strike

“If you want to change your travel plans to avoid a potential (but not confirmed) strike, your airline may allow you to rebook for an alternative time but it will be at the discretion of the airline as to whether they let you do this.”


“If your EU flight from the EU or a flight with an EU airline into an EU airport is cancelled, irrespective of the circumstances, you are entitled under EU air passenger regulations to a full refund. If you still wish to fly, your airline must find you an alternative flight to take.

“If your flight is cancelled less than a fortnight before you are due to travel and your alternative flight arrives more than two hours later than your original flight would have, you can also claim compensation.”

Compensation rights for delays or cancellations

“If your flight is disrupted by strikes by staff who do not work directly for the airline e.g. airport staff, ground handlers, or air traffic control, you will not be able to claim compensation for any delays because this is considered an extraordinary circumstance outside of the airline’s control.

“However, if you are affected by airline staff strikes and take a flight from an EU airport or you take a flight into an EU airport with an EU airline, and you fly but arrive more than three hours late, you claim compensation of €250 or more.”


In addition, airlines have a duty of care to any passengers disrupted by a flight, providing meals, refreshments and if necessary accommodation as appropriate. The delay must be for at least two hours before any entitlement kicks in. Even if your delay or cancellation has been caused by an “extraordinary circumstance” by the airline, you are still entitled to assistance.

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