Europe’s summer travel strikes: When, where and what disruption to expect in July

 Thursday, July 20, 2023

Workers across Europe are walking out to protest low pay and poor working conditions.

Europe is a hive of strike action right now, with many employees unhappy that sky-high inflation has not been matched by higher wages.

Walkouts are planned all over Europe, showing that it always pays to check before you travel.

Europe: Air traffic controller strikes could affect summer flights

Union Syndicale Bruxelles (USB), a union which represents EU civil servants, has threatened to take industrial action this summer.

Walkouts from staff at Eurocontrol, which manages Europe’s skies, could begin as early as next week with just five days’ notice before they take place.

There are no official dates yet which makes it difficult to estimate the impact.

The staff involved work at Eurocontrol’s network management centre. This location plays a vital role in ensuring the efficiency of air traffic control across the continent.

It validates aircraft’s flight plans and checks tens of thousands of messages per day.

USB says that it has threatened strikes due to a row over a 25 per cent shortage in staff, management behaviour and an imposed roster system.

France: Travellers warned about ongoing French protests

Unions across France have been in an ongoing battle against an increase in the legal retirement age from 62 to 64.

Protests broke out across the country after President Emmanuel Macron decided to push through the change without a parliamentary vote.

Strikes have been ongoing since January and have heavily impacted travel.

While the pace of industrial action has slowed down, air traffic controller strikes are still having an impact with budget airline Ryanair having to cancel 900 flights in June.

Delays and limited flights over the country are also causing more airspace congestion over Europe, leading to further disruption.

Is it safe to travel to France right now?

Violent protests after the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Nahel Merzou have also sparked warnings from the UK, US and Germany for holidaymakers hoping to visit France.

In Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Grenoble, Lille and Toulouse, demonstrations in late June and early July spilled over into violence. There were heavy clashes with police, cars set alight and shops looted.

Though the situation has now calmed down, travellers are still being advised to monitor the news for further updates and follow the advice of authorities particularly during the Bastille Day celebrations on 14 July.

England: Summer rail and airport strikes

Security staff have called off strikes at London Heathrow Airport after voting to accept a pay offer.

More than 2,000 staff were due to strike for 31 days this summer. The industrial action would have coincided with the beginning of the school holidays and the August bank holiday in the UK.

Passengers were worried that it could lead to a repeat of the chaos seen at the airport last year.

But now strikes have been called off, Heathrow has said it is looking forward to delivering an “excellent summer” for travellers.

Gatwick Airport workers to walk out for 8 days

Nearly 1000 workers at London’s Gatwick Airport are planning to strike for eight days this summer in a row over pay.

Workers from four companies are planning to walk out including baggage handlers and ground staff.

Strikes will take place over eight days from Friday 28 July to Tuesday 1 August and then from Friday 4 August to Tuesday 8 August.

The impact on passengers isn’t yet clear but Unite union has said that disruption, delays and cancellations are “inevitable”.

Potential strikes at Birmingham Airport in July

Around 100 staff at Birmingham Airport in the Midlands are voting to strike over pay.

Security guards and technicians voted in favour of strikes last week. Passengers could face delays from 18 July with industrial action due to continue “indefinitely” from this date.

Unite the Union warned that strike action will severely impact security and terminal maintenance at Birmingham Airport.

This could lead to delays for airlines including Wizz, Ryanair, Lufthansa and Emirates.

The airport says that if industrial action does take place, it is confident the impact will be limited and it does not expect any cancellations.

Rail strikes across the UK in July

Members of the RMT Union are due to strike on 20, 22 and 29 July. It will affect 14 different rail operators and previous walkouts have caused massive disruption for train services across the country.

Not all services will be cancelled during the strike and travellers should check the National Rail website before making their journey.

Sweden: Security strikes at airports in July called off

Strikes by the Swedish Transport Workers’ Union that would have affected Stockholm Arland Airport, Bromma Stockholm Airport and Gothenburg-Landvetter Airport have been called off.

The union and industry body Almega Security Companies reached an agreement on improved pay and scheduling policies meaning strikes due to take place in July will no longer take place.

Italy: Strikes across public transport and airports in July

Transport strikes aren’t unusual in Italy during the summer. Industry regulations provide a summer exemption which means there will be no air transport strikes between 27 July and 5 September.

Italian unions representing staff from airlines, rail operators and public transport have already announced a number of strikes in the coming month, however.

There is likely to be regional disruption from walkouts at regional transport companies so it’s worth checking before you travel.

Lufthansa strikes possible in July

Lufthansa pilots are currently considering a new pay offer from the flag carrier.

Workers agreed on a truce on strikes that ended on 30 June, meaning summer walkouts could be on the cards if the offer is rejected.

Unions recently entered into important talks with the airline which will determine whether industrial action takes place. There are no details yet on when a strike could happen.

Belgium: Ryanair staff plan two day strike

Two trade unions – CNE and ACV Puls – and pilots’ union Beca will strike in Belgium on 15 and 16 July.

More than 80 per cent of pilots at Charleroi airport are set to walk out, potentially affecting around 140 flights.

So far, 44 flight cancellations have been announced for Saturday. It’s currently unclear how many may need to be cancelled on Sunday.

Ryanair allegedly told pilots in the country that it wanted to cancel an agreement on working hours and rest. They also agreed to a 20 per cent pay cut at the start of the pandemic which is still in place.

The unions have given the budget airline an ultimatum – present a serious proposal to solve these issues by Friday 14 July or they will walk out for two days. Further strike dates could continue until the COVID-19 agreement expires in October.

Portugal: EasyJet cabin crew to strike

EasyJet cabin crew in Portugal will carry out their third strike in recent months from 21 to 25 July.

It comes after staff rejected a deal on pay and working conditions that the National Union of Civil Aviation Flight Personnel said left them “no more room for negotiation”.

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