European air traffic control strikes hit travellersYour rights if your flight is delayed or cancelled

29 January 2014


Air passengers due to fly to European countries are facing disruption to their flights today and tomorrow as air traffic control workers in several countries go on strike.

Italian and Portuguese air traffic controllers are striking today in protest at the European Commission's 'Single European Sky' initiative, which aims to consolidate air traffic services across the continent. 

Workers at French air traffic control are also set to start industrial action from late this evening and this is due to continue throughout tomorrow.

Ryanair has already had to cancel more than 80 flights on Italian routes, and other airlines such as British Airways have also cancelled flights from the UK. easyJet has been forced to cancel or reschedule flights on some of its French routes.

Find out your rights if your flight is delayed by a strike.

Refunds for cancelled flights

If your flight is cancelled, you must be offered a full refund or rerouting to your final destination. You are also entitled to phone calls, refreshments and, if you are stuck overnight, accommodation.

If the flight is delayed, the airline must offer you meals and/or refreshments, depending on how long the flight is delayed for. If it is a lengthy delay, the airline may have to give you accommodation and transport to the hotel.

Always check the status of your flight before leaving for the airport.

Compensation and insurance

You are unlikely to be able to claim compensation for delays or cancellations in this case, as strikes are normally classed as extraordinary circumstances beyond an airline’s control.

However, a European Court of Justice ruling in 2012 stated that airlines should compensate passengers if they are denied boarding the day after the strike takes place. The ruling against Finnair said extraordinary circumstances applied only to a 'particular aircraft on a particular day' and not to later flights that were rescheduled as a result of flights affected by an event such as a strike.

You may be able to claim on your travel insurance as some policies do provide cover for events such as strikes or civil unrest. Check our guide to insurers providing cover for unexpected events.

More on this…

  • Got a question about your flight rights? Find the answer on our guide to consumer rights
  • To find the best policy for you, check our guide to travel insurance
  • Before booking your flights, find out how your airline fared in our airlines survey