Airline strike. Do we have rights as customers? Legal answers and solutions.

You are about to fly away on holiday and you are informed that the flight crew is on strike … what can be done? They are exercising their rights, but… what about yours as a customer?

On 25th and 26th July, stoppages at the airports are announced due to the strike of the Ryanair cabin crew; cancellations that, it is estimated, could affect more than 200.000 passengers, 50,000 in the case of Spain.

We have checked different sources to find solutions and not everything is out of control…

The cancellation or delay of a flight means a breach of contract by the company, reason why we are entitled to a compensation, which consists, as the 261/2004 EU regulation establishes, of:

_ Economic compensation, the amount will depend on the distance of the journey. As Ryanair does not operate long – distance flights, it will be 250 euros for flights of less than 1,500 kilometers, or 400, for those ranging between 1500 and 3000.

_ Right to reimbursement or alternative routes, as the client chooses.

_ Assistance through exchangeable vouchers for meals and refreshments; telephone calls, telexes or fax messages or emails; hotel accommodation, or transportation between the airport and the place of accommodation.

However, in relation to the economic compensation, the UE law establishes several exceptions. The compensation could be refused by the company when the customers have been informed of the cancellation at least two weeks in advance of the departure time, as a rule. In the case they are also offered an alternative route, the notice period may be reduced up to seven days.

The third possible cause of denial is the existence of exceptional circumstances, this concept has raised interpretative doubts.

To be considered an exceptional a situation, this one, shouldn’t be, due to its origin or nature, inherent to the normal activity of the airline; and also, it must be out of the power of the company.

Then, can the workers strike be considered an extraordinary circumstance?

As strike is a fundamental right of workers, recognized in the case of our Spanish legal system in Article 28 of the Constitution, so we cannot speak of exceptionality.

In this way, the court has spoken, highlighting the ruling of the CJEU of April 17 of this year, confirming that strike cannot be considered exceptional, so companies must not avoid their responsibility and must compensate travelers affected by the consequences of a strike.

In response to all the above, having checked the passenger that is, despite everything, protected by the rules, where can we exercise our right to claim?

In this case, the company: Ryanair, has enabled an online form on its website, in addition to the possibility of contacting it by postal mail. The third way to claim is through the claim forms that the company must provide to all the customers concerned at the information counters of the airports. State Aviation Safety Agency, which is dependent on the Ministry of Public Works, offers to involved people a standard form.

All the requests should be solved in seven days – in case of reimbursements- and in fifteen in case of a claim. As far as compensation is concerned, resolution must happen within ten days, same as expenses claims.

It should also be noticed that there are other rights that allow customers to receive other economic compensations for moral and property damages in the case of flight cancellation, these might include lost hotel nights or activities that may no longer be performed, taking into account that it always has to be a non-refundable expense, circumstance that, in every case, must be accredited.

Finally, the company has ensured that it will solve the situation of practically all passengers, having already relocated at least half of them in days before or after the strike. In addition to that, the minimum services that have been established by the Ministry oblige the airline to guarantee one hundred percent of the flights to the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands and up to 59% of the peninsular and international destinations.


Raquel Escolano Asún

Navarro Llima Abogados, S.L

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