European airport strikes everything you need to know everything you need to know
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European airport strikes: everything you need to know

Will the latest series of walkouts affect you? Here's the latest

Summer 2022 wasn’t the travel industry’s best. Demand for travel boomed, but capacity struggled to keep up which, among other factors, caused a summer of travel chaos for many.

Airports and ship ports were impacted by a series of Border Force walkouts in December ahead of the Christmas holiday, while UK airport strikes threatened Easter breaks for families departing from Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

Now, European workers are standing up for their rights to fair pay and working conditions. These are the latest developments on Europe's airport strikes and the possible impact on your travels.

Which airports in Europe have strikes?

At the time of publishing, there are strikes across Europe, including the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Portugal, which are the most likely to impact travellers in the coming weeks. These vary from terminal-specific security walkouts like those at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 to nationwide strikes like those taking place in France.

When are the French air traffic control strikes?

At the time of publishing, French air traffic controllers have been on strike for more than non-consecutive 30 days in 2023. This has affected Ryanair more than any other airline, and thousands of flights have been cancelled as a result. Cancellations and delays have been largely due to limited air traffic resources in France, which affects the country’s entire airspace. Overflights – when airplanes need to travel over French airspace despite not departing from, or arriving at, a French airport – are suffering cancellations. However, minimum service regulation is in place, protecting French flights.

On the strikes, a Ryanair spokesperson previously said, “Ursula von der Leyen and the EU Commission repeatedly claim that the Single Market is a priority for Europe. In negotiations around Brexit, the Single Market (ensuring the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons within the EU) was the EU Commission’s priority. However, every time French Air Traffic Control (ATC) goes on strike, the Single Market for air travel over Europe is disrupted, yet the EU Commission sits on its hands taking no action.

“When the French Government protects French flights, why does Ursula von der Leyen and the EU Commission stand idly by and allow EU overflights to be disproportionately cancelled on a daily basis? We call on the Commission to take legal action against France and its ATC unions to protect EU overflights. Innocent EU passengers travelling from Germany to Spain, or from Ireland to Italy, are entitled to rely on the EU’s Single Market for air travel, and their overflights should not be repeatedly cancelled because the EU Commission fails to take action to defend the Single Market.”

Recent strikes have brought some French cities to a virtual standstill. New laws have raised the age French workers need to be in order to receive their state pensions, which has led to large groups protesting across the country.

The next wave of protests and strikes is planned for Tuesday 6 June. It's expected that air traffic controllers and rail workers will be among those taking industrial action, resulting in possible delays and cancellations as flights require redirecting away from French air space.

The latest official travel advice states: “You should monitor the media, avoid protests, check the latest advice with operators when travelling and follow the advice of the authorities.”

Nice city airport, French RivieraGetty Images

Are there Portugal airport strikes?

Portugal is another popular European destination set to be impacted by strike action this summer

Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) workers are expected to take industrial action throughout all of June at Portuguese airports and border posts as they take a stand against uncertain work conditions and internal restructuring.

Strikes at Humberto Delgado Airport are planned between 3 and 5 June, 10 and 12 June, 17 and 19 June, and 24 and 26 June.

Elsewhere, industrial action is taking place at Porto, Faro, and Madeira airports for periods of 24 hours on 5 June, 12 June, 19 June, and 26 June.

When are the Spanish Airport strikes?

The Spanish Airline Pilots Union (SEPLA) has been striking in recent months due to ongoing disputes with the Spanish Ministry of Transport in particular.

Walkouts were planned between 22 and 26 May and 29 and 30 May, and upcoming strikes include those on the 1 June and 2 June. These involved the legally permitted amount of pilots able to do so leaving their posts, resulting in delays and cancellations.

Pilots represented by SEPLA at other airlines in Spain are considering strike action this summer. Details and dates of these will be updated in due course.

What should I do if there are airport strikes while I'm on holiday?

Airlines and operators are obliged to share the latest information if it affects your travels. When using an impacted airport or airline, check the latest flight information on the departure airport’s website and opt-in for email and text notifications to stay up to date with all the latest news.