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]


15 Responses to Entire European Continent Goes on Strike

  1. David SFeastbay says:

    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 already put on other airlines, they don’t have as many passengers to deal with now while they try to get back on track. I wonder how many people will now want to rebook back to their original flight if they can.

    At least with the french controllers they have always been very good at getting the word out to the dates and times they will strike and sticking to it, so in away that does help.

  2. Jim Sack says:

    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.

  3. JM says:

    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

  4. Tim says:

    “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.

  5. “(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?

  6. CF says:

    Nicholas Barnard wrote:

    “(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?

    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.)

  7. Dan says:

    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 showing up? The least we can do is not get so personal if they are having a bad day. We are supposed to be professionals.

  8. Alex says:

    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

  9. Daren S says:

    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.

  10. jordan says:

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

  11. frank says:

    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 with the aspect of losing our pensions, our pay reductions OVER A DECADE AGO, benefits slashed,
    the number of flight attendants per aircraft reduced to a minimum number, loss of crew meals, our hotels reduced to “on the side of the highway BUDGET MOTEL” quality, our DUTY RIGS changed in favor of the company working us long hours and short nights.
    This INDUSTRY has lost alot of workers, fed up with the treatment of concessions. MANY CONTRACTS are up for renewal and NO ONE is in bankruptcy. NO ONE will abrogate the contract in a courtroom. Many groups have been negotiating for years and years to amend their contracts, companies purposely DRAG OUT the negotiation process. We’ve waited patiently for our contracts to become amendable, hoped for DECENT, NOT EXCESSIVE IMPROVEMENTS, yet most companies will take it to mediation and beyond.

    LET THE GAMES BEGIN.

  12. JD says:

    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 good as they think they are and the reduction of one will simply get rid of the one crew member who seems to wander around doing very little. Willie has said very little this week, which in itself says a lot, he is many things but he is not stupid

  13. David SFeastbay says:

    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 not go the extra mile. As someone said yesterday I think, those workers tend to be at the top of the pay scale so think why should they do anything extra (like go the extra mile). At least that is how I saw it back then.

  14. Maarten says:

    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. Better safe then sorry.

    BTW I am doing all of this on a round the world on One World. For my sins, I get to do more or less the same at the end of March again, but then on Sky Team. That one goes like this: JFK – DTW – Shanghai – Amsterdam – Bremen – JFK (via Amsterdam).

  15. David Z says:

    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 Peter Drucker had something to say about that:

    http://www.druckerinstitute.com/showpage.aspx?Section=RP&PageID=47

    What Drucker thought was more appropriate was a ratio around 25-to-1 (as he suggested in a 1977 article) or 20-to-1 (as he expressed in a 1984 essay and several times thereafter). Widen the pay gap much beyond that, Drucker asserted, and it makes it difficult to foster the kind of teamwork that most businesses require to succeed.

Join the Conversation

*