Entire European Continent Goes on Strike

Ah, spring. The days become longer, the temps get warmer, and, apparently, it’s a great time for airline strikes. Lufthansa pilots just struck for a day and postponed the rest for later. Meanwhile, British Airways is on deck as the French air traffic controllers wreak havoc in their own country. And don’t worry, Alitalia has struck in the last week as well, of course. What the heck is going on here?


With Lufthansa, the pilots aren’t happy so they walked out yesterday. That left the airline canceling about half their daily flights and plenty of passengers stuck going nowhere. Last night, the pilots agreed to suspend their strike until March 8 so they could rejoin talks. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Lufthansa will magically start operating at full speed today. It takes a little while to get everything back into place for a normal operation, so check with the airline if you’re flying.

As for British Airways, well, we’ve talked about this one before. Remember that the BA flight attendants were going to strike over Christmas but then the courts told them to screw off because of some voting irregularities. Well, they’re back and now with a new vote showing 83 percent support, the strike could come with only a week’s notice. At least they’re promising it won’t disrupt Easter flying. Not sure why Christmas was ok but Easter isn’t, but I’m not complaining.

The French air traffic controllers? They’ve been on strike this week and have hurt a lot of the air traffic running through the country. For example, Air France has announced that today it will operate all its long haul flights but only 75 percent of European flights will operate from Paris/de Gaulle with only 50 percent from Orly.

Why do we keep seeing all these strikes? Well it’s more of the same. It’s usually an issue of job retention, outsourcing, and of course, pay. The problem is that the industry today is not what it was 30 years ago when pay was high and so were fares. Some airlines have been able to adapt but none have done so without serious pain for most involved (except of course, those insanely-misguided CEOs who think that taking a big bonus in the face of all this pain is a good idea).

What we’re seeing now, however, is two different types of unions based on how they react. The labor unions that realize that this is unfortunately a necessary change will be in better shape because they can participate in the discussion and work to find ways to help reduce costs with the least amount of pain to their members. Those unions that simply want to strike if they don’t get everything they want, no matter how delusional, will end up watching from the outside as the industry changes without their participation.

As a result, customers end up suffering, of course. If your flight is canceled because of a strike, then I would just cancel and rebook at a later date if you can. If you need to be there, well, you can look at other airlines but they will be bursting at the seams trying to accommodate everyone. Just remember that a strike doesn’t mean the airline shuts down. Most airlines are able to get together enough of a skeleton crew to operate at least some flights, as Lufthansa showed by operating half theirs. But running only half your flights is still a recipe for lots of stuck travelers.

Oh, and Alitalia? Well it’s hardly worth mentioning, but they struck on February 16. Ho, hum. Nothing to see here.

[Original Photo via Steinsky on Wikipedia]

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