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?

Strike

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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15 Comments on "Entire European Continent Goes on Strike"

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David SF eastbay
Member
Brett you’ll blog about anything just so you can mention Alitalia won’t you…..lol At least LH had a plan for the four days the pilots were going to strike. They published a list of what flights would operate each of the four days so people could have at least known they were ok and not tie up phone lines to the airline or their travel agent. LH will still loose a lot of money as they were still reprotecting passengers on other airlines and not just their alliance partners for these four planned days. But since so many people were… Read more »
jim sack
Member

I try never, ever, ever to fly into or through Charles de Gaulle. It is a nice building, but the management, shuttle system, signage and staff are very, very unhelpful. I assume they have planned it this way, to discourage visitors, so I go around or over France. It took two visits, but I got the hint.

JM
Guest

CF,

Don’t offend the Greek air traffic controllers, who are proudly participating in general strikes in their country:

http://www.balkantravellers.com/en/read/article/1779

Aegean and Olympic have cancelled all flights during the strikes.

Of course, the situation there is rather more complex than a union vs. management issue. It’s Greece vs. the EU.

One gets the impression that organized labor in Europe is “whistling past the graveyard” on many fronts these days.

Then again, I suppose striking is one of their best weapons, so to speak.

What a mess!

JM

Tim
Guest

“Not sure why Christmas was ok but Easter isn’t, but I’m not complaining.”

I heard Easter is actually busier than Christmas in Europe.

Nick Barnard
Member

“(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).”

So this is tangental, but what is a reasonable pay package for a CEO with this much balancing to do?

Dan
Guest
Sorry CF; but I agree with Nicholas on this. I’ve been on a few European carriers in my time. Times have changed and maybe the front line does care. Yes, I work for a US carrier and I do think that my top management does care. I think all airline employees need to realize that while our pay in the company is not what it was in, as I hear, “the good ole days” neither is the staffing or service. Come fellow airline employees; we too need to step it up. Or have we forgotten the pax pay us for… Read more »
Alex
Guest

Nicholas Barnard wrote:

So this is tangental, but what is a reasonable pay package for a CEO with this much balancing to do?

I think its mostly PR. BA’s Willie Walsh has turned down his bonus for the past three years running:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/5498590/BA-chief-Willie-Walsh-to-turn-down-bonus-for-third-year-running.html

daren_siddall
Member

The BA strike should be interesting. They have been busy training volunteers (pilots, ground staff and even maintenance staff) to cover for the striking cabin crew. Willie Walsh has also threatened to remove travel concessions permanently from any staff that go on strike. This is going to get nasty. Thankfully I’m not planning on flying anyway in the next few months.

jordan
Guest

Easter is more sacred in the UK and Europe, than the United States!!

frank
Guest
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. ========================================= You’re right it’s about pay. If you look at Flight Attendant pay you will see that they TOP OUT at a certain rate and that’s it. Maybe a small cost of living raise thereafter. And, that can be for a decade or so. Imagine having the same paycheck for 10 years. Many F’A’s in this country have LOST their pension contributions by their companies. Many of us didnt sign on to these jobs… Read more »
JD
Guest
The BA cabin crew may have voted for a strike but Willie Walsh has got them right where he wants them. They have zero public support and he has thousands of current staff from other areas of the business, ex-staff and potential new staff ready to do the cabin crew jobs. If they say right lets strike, he will just say “bring it on”. Having spent far too much of my life in club world cabins in recent years I have to say that BA crews are really good (no come on they are!)…… but they are not quite as… Read more »
David SF eastbay
Member
Dan wrote: Sorry CF; but I agree with Nicholas on this. I’ve been on a few European carriers in my time. Times have changed and maybe the front line does care. Or have we forgotten the pax pay us for showing up?. Since I worked for an airline and spent part of that time in a union, I can say one problem is that workers in any business who are in a union act like they work for the union and not for the company that pays their salary. And I noticed it was the older workers who tend to… Read more »
malbarda
Member
Well, I for one have re-routed myself. I am doing JFK – Shanghai next week, followed by Shanghai – Manchester. This was initially a BA flight through London and I was looking forward to stretching out on the flat bed, but I am now flying Shanghai – Helsinki – Manchester on Finnair instead. At least that way I know I am going to get there, and that is worth flying on a slightly tilted flat bed in an A340, instead of the (better!) flat bed on BA’s 777. I will return from the UK to JFK via London on American.… Read more »
David Z
Guest
That’s a good question. I have no problem with competitively high pay packages, but it’s the bonus that really stings the front line. There should be this “we’re all in this together” mentality if you really want them to come to the table, and when management gets a bonus and the frontline doesn’t, it stings. (Yes, I know that’s partially the union’s responsibility to have negotiated that bonus, but do you think the front line cares? They just know they don’t get one and the big boss does.) While obviously no CEO has to follow this, the late management guru… Read more »
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