Airline strikes are never fun. They’re highly inconvenient for the passengers and the airline, canceling flights and causing delays until they are resolved. The good news is that you may be eligible for compensation if you have experienced issues due to an airline strike – but only if you are traveling to or from the European Union.

Airline Strike Overview

Under EU EC 261, you may be entitled to claim compensation if you’re delayed because of an airline strike. It’s not an unforeseen issue and oftentimes could have been resolved before it escalated to a full-on strike. Airlines won’t automatically offer this to you, so you’ll need to file a claim.

When Am I Eligible for Compensation?

Airline strikes are cause for flight compensation under EU EC 261; however, not all flights are eligible. You do have to meet some qualifying circumstances before you can file a claim.

But first, what is an airline strike? An airline strike includes any disruption of service that involves airline carrier employees, including pilots, cabin crews, flight attendants, engineers, and more. Anyone who works directly under the airline and is essential to day-to-day operations is included under airline strikes. When they strike, the airlines are no longer able to operate, causing huge delays and swaths of canceled flights.

Because this is within their control, airline strikes are covered under EC 261. The key point is that it has to be employees of the airline. It cannot be airport staff, which is different and is not eligible under this regulation. The circumstances matter, and you may be eligible for compensation as long as your flight meets the following criteria.

  • Your flight must be in the EU, whether to start or end, and the strike had to impact the EU leg. If you flew within the EU at both points, you’re in the clear!
  • Consider just how long the delay was. Was it delayed by at least three hours or more?
  • If your flight was canceled, did you have less than 14 days’ notice? Was your reservation confirmed prior to the strike only to change at the last minute?

Even if you took a replacement flight, you could still be eligible for compensation if your new flight was significantly different than your original flight. As long as the flight in question was within the last three years, it qualifies under EC 261.

This is a relatively new development. It wasn’t until 2019 that airline strikes were included under EC 261, so it’s important that you look back at any of your flight delays to see if you are eligible. The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg found that airlines are responsible for the behavior of their staff, and that includes strikes that lead to delays and cancellations. This ruling is another way that EC 261 is holding airlines accountable in hopes of improving the airline industry.

Delays and cancelations are costly inconveniences, and in most cases, they can be avoided. If you encounter an airline strike, don’t hesitate to file a claim. The airline won’t give you your compensation unless you request it.

When Am I Not Eligible for Compensation?

EC 261 is all about holding the airlines accountable, so if they are responsible for the delay, then they are required by law to pay out for your inconvenience, and the amount will vary depending on the length of your delay and trip. However, what happens if they aren’t responsible? What if it’s someone else’s fault or an act of god? If their airline is not responsible for the circumstances that caused the flight delay or cancelation, unfortunately, you will not be eligible for compensation. This includes:

  • Airport security strikes
  • Baggage handler strikes
  • Air traffic management staff strikes
  • Political unrest

Extraordinary circumstances are anything that is out of the airline’s control, so the circumstances of the delays matter. This can include inclement weather, though there are some exceptions to the rule. The airline must have taken all reasonable measures before the delay occurred for it to qualify as extraordinary circumstances. For example, if other airlines were able to navigate a storm with preparation, then the airline could still be held accountable.

It’s all about reasonable measures, which can get murky under the eyes of the law. Because of that, you can still try to submit a claim even if it isn’t technically eligible under EC 261. Some airlines will make good faith gestures to settle with their passengers and retain their business. Otherwise, you can work directly with their customer service teams to help reschedule your flight and get you on your way to your final destination.

EC 261 favors the passengers, but it also recognizes that airlines aren’t in control of every circumstance. Unfortunately for you, anything that qualifies as extraordinary circumstances isn’t covered under EC 261. Remember, you can only file claims within three years of the original delay. If your delay happened before then, that too would be ineligible – even if it meets the criteria.

What Compensation Can I Get?

Your compensation will vary based on the circumstances of your flight issue, so it’s important to know what you are entitled to. As long as the problem is within the airline’s control, you should be eligible for compensation under EC 261, though the amount will differ. Luckily, they have standards in place.

Cancellation

Flights are cancelled all the time, but if yours is a result of an airline strike in the EU, then you may be eligible to be compensated for your inconvenience, but you need to file a claim first. As long as the airline did not notify you at least 14 days in advance or offer you a comparable flight, you could be eligible for compensation up to €600.

The chart below outlines how much money you can claim depending on the length of your delay and the distance of your flight. As long as you have a touchpoint within the EU, EC 261 applies.

Less than 2 hours 2 – 3 hours 3 – 4 hours More than 4 hours Never arrived Distance
€125 €250 €250 €250 €250 All flights 1,500 km or less
€200 €200 €400 €400 €400 Internal EU flights over 1,500 km
€200 €200 €400 €400 €400 Non-internal EU flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km
€300 €300 €300 €600 €600 Non-internal EU flights over 3,500 km

Delay

Perhaps you’re lucky enough that your flight is simply being delayed instead of cancelled. It’s still a problem but look on the bright side. You’re able to get to your final destination eventually. Too, you may be entitled to compensation of up to €600 under EC 261.

Delayed flight compensation is a little different than cancelled flights. The compensation doesn’t start kicking in until three hours, and the value only increases as the time you’re delayed increases. EC 261 also takes into account the distance when calculating how much you’re entitled to for a delayed flight because of an airline strike.

Less than 3 hours 3 – 4 hours More than 4 hours Never arrived Distance
€ – €250 €250 €250 All flights 1,500 km or less
€ – €400 €400 €400 Internal EU flights over 1,500 km
€ – €400 €400 €400 Non-internal EU flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km
€ – €300 €600 €600 Non-internal EU flights over 3,500 km

Denied Boarding

Denied boarding is anytime that you are refused entry to a plane, and one of the most common reasons for this is that the airline is overbooked. If this is the case, you are eligible for compensation. If you have been denied boarding because of an airline strike, you may also be entitled to compensation.

You’ll need to understand why you’re being denied boarding and get it in writing if you can. If the flight is merely delayed, the amount of compensation depends on the length of your delay. Anytime you are denied boarding against your will, and it is not your fault, you are entitled to compensation.

What Are My Rights?

When there’s an airline strike, it’s important that you know your rights. This will help you get the compensation you deserve for your inconvenience. As long as the issue is within the airline’s control and not at the airport itself, you can recoup some of your losses.

What Am I Entitled To?

What you’re entitled to depends on how long you are delayed, but you are entitled to care as you wait. This includes:

  • Meals and refreshments as you wait.
  • Access to communications if you need it, including two telephone calls, faxes, and emails.
  • Overnight accommodation if your flight is delayed overnight.
  • Transportation to and from the airport if you need overnight accommodation or are able to return home after your flight.

Your rights increase as the length of your delay increases, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve from the airlines. They won’t offer it unless you ask.

Can I Rebook?

Yes, you can rebook your flight as long as it has been cancelled or delayed for more than 5 hours. You can completely withdraw from your flight, and in that case, you will receive a full refund, including taxes and service charges. You can also ask to be rebooked on another flight. If the time varies significantly from your original flight, you may still claim compensation. Airline strikes are preventable, so don’t forget to claim your restitution.

What About Past Strikes?

If you’ve faced a flight cancellation or delay in the past three years, you can still claim compensation after the fact. You are not locked into doing it in the moment, and that includes when airline strikes occur. Judges first ruled that airline strikes were not extraordinary circumstances in 2019, so as long as the open time window applies, you can still claim. COVID-19 delays and cancellations do not apply regardless of the time frame.

Conclusion

You have a lot of rights under EC 261 when it comes to claiming your compensation, and now that airline strikes count as controllable circumstances, you have even more! Look back at your delays and see if any apply. You could be eligible to receive up to €600 if you ask.