The world’s seventh largest airport, London Heathrow, could be shut down this summer. 4,000 Unite union members, including security guards, engineers and passenger service drivers, are threatening to walk out for six days in a dispute about pay. The strikes, if they go ahead, will be taking place on Friday 26th and Saturday 27th July, Monday 5th and Tuesday 6th August and Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th August.

With summer holidays in full swing, and the weekend being the optimal time for families to travel, the delays have the potential to cause severe delays and disruption and could bring Heathrow to a standstill.

British Airways is the only airline to have spoken out at this time, and claim their flights will remain unaffected. Despite the airline’s pilots currently balloting for industrial action themselves.

easyJet workers at Stansted Airport, who are also members of Unite union, are calling for strike action this summer and staff plan to walk out every weekend in August.

As we await confirmation of the strikes, passengers should be made aware of their rights.

Will compensation be available?

Strike action is classed, by the Civil Aviation Authority, as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ – an event which is out of the airlines control. This means that the airline does not have to pay its passengers compensation for any delays or cancellations that occur on the day of the strike.

Compensation will be available, however, for delays and cancellations following the strike. For example, if the strike is on the Saturday and disruption still occurs on the Sunday then compensation may be available.

What happens if the flight is delayed?

Though compensation may not be available, passengers are entitled to assistance for their airline. Under the Denied Boarding Regulation, airlines should provide food and drink, phone calls and overnight accommodation if necessary. The type of assistance will depend on the length of flight and how long passengers are delayed for. The eligibility is as follows:

  • A two-hour delay for a flight under 932 miles
  • A three-hour delay for a flight over 932 miles, in the EU
  • A three-hour delay for a flight between 932 and 2174 miles, outside of the EU
  • A four-hour delay on any flight 
What happens if the flight is cancelled?

If the flight is cancelled due to strike action, passengers are entitled to a full refund of any unused tickets or rebooking onto the next available flight. The assistance mentioned in the delay section may also be applicable.

The Civil Aviation Authority also states compensation is to be paid if the strike action involved the airlines employees and they have not given passengers at least two weeks’ notice prior to their flight.

Can travel insurance help?

Most travel insurance policies will offer a small amount of compensation to passengers affected by delays. This is usually per set period of time and up to a total amount. For example, £10.00 for every 12-hour period up to £100.00. Some policies will offer compensation for every 6-hour period, and the amount available will differ.

Travel abandonment may also be an option. Passengers who decide to cancel their holiday after a 24-hour or 12-hour delay, depending on the policy, will be covered for cancellation.

Both delay compensation and travel abandonment cover will only be available if the passenger checked-in on time and the airline had not already announced the delay or cancellation.