European Flights Facing Delays and Cancellations This Week Due to Strikes

Mar 4, 2017

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Two significant European strikes threaten to wreak havoc on European flights this week. Thankfully airlines are already setting up travel waivers allowing travelers to rebook themselves out of the mess, so if your plans currently have you flying in or through one of these areas, it’s important to know when and where the strikes are scheduled to happen.

France Air Traffic Controller Strike

It’s a pattern we’ve become incredibly used to in recent years: the Air Traffic Controllers in France are going on strike Monday and Tuesday. Since France is centrally located in Europe, this strike doesn’t just affect flights going in and out of the country. Even flights scheduled to fly over France usually have to be re-routed during these strikes, further exacerbating delays. Here’s an example of this during a recent French ATC strike:

During a recent strike, this flight from Frankfurt to Barcelona had to route outside French airspace — adding an extra hour to the scheduled flight time. Image courtesy of FlightRadar24.

While we take no political position on the subject, Airlines For Europe has a petition to “Keep Europe’s Skies Open” asking the European Commission to put limitations on when and how French ATC can go on strike. On the petition website, Airlines For Europe notes:

Since 2010, ATC unions have caused more than 200 days of disruption resulting in cancellations and delays for millions of holiday makers across Europe. This has an impact on the European economy, tourism, and competitiveness. Europe’s reputation is at stake.

Berlin Strike

As if the French ATC strike isn’t going to impact German flights enough, ground staff at the two largest airports in Berlin have voted overwhelmingly to go on strike yet again. Similar recent strikes have led to the cancellation of at least 300 flights, and the timing of this strike couldn’t be worse for airline professionals. ITB Berlin — the self-proclaimed “World’s Leading Travel Trade Show” and a recent source of entertaining airline bickering — is scheduled for this Wednesday through Sunday. Although the strike hasn’t been scheduled yet, the convention’s website is already suggesting that visitors reroute through other airports and take a train or bus to Berlin.

Airline Travel Waivers

If you might be impacted by these strikes, check with your airline to see if it has a travel notice. Multiple airlines have already released change fee waivers allowing travelers to rebook themselves to/through other airports or on alternative dates.

Note that you can sometimes get quite creative with these travel waivers, as TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig did recently on his Honolulu (HNL) to Newark (EWR) flight. He was able to successfully change it to HNL-MAJ-KWA-KSA-PNI-TKK-GUM-NRT-EWR, before having to change it back due to work scheduling conflicts.

As of this writing, here are the available travel waivers:

Air France

  • Original travel dates: March 6-10
  • Covered airports: Bordeaux, Toulouse, Pau, Biarritz, Nantes, Brest, Rennes, Lorient, Quimper, Caen, Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Lisboa, Rabat, Casablanca, Tunis, Algiers and Oran
  • Original ticket must have been issued by March 3
  • Rebook travel anytime on March 4-5 or 11-17
  • You may also choose to postpone your flight to after March 17, change your country of destination or origin or cancel your trip. In this case, Air France will provide you with a voucher valid for 1 year on AIR FRANCE, KLM or HOP! flights.

American Airlines

  • Original travel dates: March 6-7
  • Covered airports: Barcelona, Spain (BCN); Bordeaux, France (BOD); Lyon, France (LYS); Madrid, Spain (MAD); Marseille, France (MRS); Nice, France (NCE); Paris Charles De Gaulle, France (CDG); Toulouse, France (TLS)
  • Must have bought your ticket by March 3. Rebook travel anytime between March 4-5 or 11-17. You can’t change your origin or destination city. Must rebook in same class or pay the difference.

British Airways

  • Original travel dates: March 6-10
  • Covered flights: British Airways operated short haul service to or from any French airport as well as Madrid and Barcelona
  • Alternative flight dates: March 4-5 or 11-17


  • Original travel dates: March 6-10
  • Covered airports: Algiers, Algeria (ALG); Barcelona, Spain (BCN); Biarritz, France (BIQ); Bilbao, Spain (BIO); Bordeaux, France (BOD); Brest, France (BES); Caen, France (CFR); Casablanca, Morocco (CAS); Lisbon, Portugal (LIS); Lorient, France (LRT); Madrid, Spain (MAD); Nantes, France (NTE); Oran, Algeria (ORN); Pau, France (PUF); Quimper, France (IUP); Rabat, Morocco (RBA); Rennes, France (RNS); Toulouse, France (TLS); Tunis, Tunisia (TUN)
  • Rebooking must occur by March 15
  • Rebooked travel must being no later than March 17


  • Original travel dates: March 6-10
  • Covered airports: various in Algeria, France, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia
  • Original ticket must have been issued by March 3
  • Rebooked travel must being no later than March 17

United Airlines

  • Original travel dates: March 5-10
  • Covered airports: ​​​​​​​​​​​​​Barcelona, ES (BCN); Lisbon, PT (LIS); Madrid, ES (MAD); Paris, FR (CDG)
  • The change fee and any difference in fare will be waived for new flights departing on or before March 17, as long as travel is rescheduled in the same cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed.​​

As of publishing, LufthansaRyanair and XL Airways haven’t issued travel waivers for this strike.

If Your Flight is Delayed/Cancelled

If you do experience a travel disruption, make sure to check the benefits on the credit card you used to book the flight. Some of the top credit cards offer trip delay/cancellation insurance, including the Citi Prestige ($500 per passenger for 3+ hour delay), the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($500 per ticket for 6+ hour or overnight delay) and Chase Sapphire Preferred ($500 per ticket for 12+ hour or overnight delay).

Featured image courtesy of BERTRAND GUAY via Getty Images.

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