Seven key travel strikes this summer - all you need to know as Ryanair prepares for its first ever

Annabel Fenwick Elliott
If it goes ahead, this will be the first strike in Ryanair's history - JANIFEST

Holidaymakers are facing a new wave of strikes threatening to plunge their summer travel plans into turmoil. First, Ryanair pilots are planning to walk out tomorrow, with cabin and ground staff around Europe following suit later in July.

And it doesn't stop there. Employees at Manchester Airport and Luton Airport are threatening industrial action, protest amid French rail workers is ongoing, and there's a Tube strike looming on the horizon. Here's what we know about all of them.


When: Pilots on Thursday July 12, and staff from Spain, Italy, Portugal and Belgium on July 25 and 26 - unless their demands are met and a deal is reached. Ryanair has announced that it has cancelled 30 flights from the UK to Ireland as a result of the pilots’ walkout tomorrow - and that passengers had been notified. In its 33-year history, a Ryanair strike has never actually materialised, so it’s feasible that O’Leary will manage to avoid it once again, but things aren’t looking positive.

Ryanair pilots are demanding a better workplace culture Credit: istock

Why: There’s been a long-running feud between staff and management at the Irish carrier, with strikes threatening just before Christmas last year, too. CEO Michael O’Leary narrowly averted them by finally agreeing to recognise unions for the first time. But employees are claiming there’s been little in the way of actual progress since then, and are pushing for more rights.

A representative for the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) stated: “Conditions at Ryanair have been heavily criticised over the last few years, with the range of issues highlighted including poverty pay, draconian disciplinary procedures, unachievable sales targets and staff having to pay for items that most decent employers provide.”

Pilots are asking for a change in seniority rules so that those who have worked at Ryanair the longest would be eligible for first option on base transfers and annual leave. Cabin crew want better rights to sick pay and an end to  steep sales targets on items like perfume and scratchcards, among other things.

48 unbelievable quotes from Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary

French air traffic controllers

When: The next French air traffic control (ATC) strike has not been announced, but they’ve been causing trouble all this summer thus far and EasyJet has said they’ve been advised of possible industrial action “throughout summer 2018”.

Last month, Ryanair announced that more than 71,000 flights were delayed in May, affecting 200,000 passengers, because of ATC shortages and strikes. In the month of June, that number rose to 210,000 passengers. And just last week, ATC staff shortages caused delays to more than 580 of 2,262 Ryanair flights in a single day, the airline said. These strikes cause delays as airlines must find ways to re-route flights around sectors unable to handle capacity. Ryanair this week become embroiled in a rather unseemly Twitter spat with British air traffic control provider, Nats, over who is to blame for ATC delays. 

Why: The ATC union is calling for an increased annual leave allowance and more consistent rotas. There have also been strike threats from Spanish ATC staff, which would affect flights between the UK and holiday spots including Ibiza, Barcelona, Majorca and Menorca. The strikes, which were planned for July and August, look like they’ve been called off now after the Spanish government negotiated a deal with the union.


When: July 20 (3am) to July 22 (2pm).

Why: Baggage handlers at Luton Airport - where airlines including EasyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air have bases - are calling for better wages to reflect the rising cost of living, and have voted to reject the latest offer from their employer, Menzies Aviation.

A representative from Unite has warned of "severe disruption unless management get around the table and negotiate a fair deal which recognises the contribution workers make”.


When: TBC, dependant on ongoing talks between the union and employers.

Why: Security staff at Manchester Airport have threatened to strike over long working hours and under-staffing, according to the Manchester Evening News. This would affect around 1,200 members off staff and be the first walkout at the hub since 2002.

Lawrence Chapple-Gill, a spokesperson for Unite, warned of "significant disruption" in the event of the strike going ahead and stated: "In my 10 years in this job I’ve never known such disharmony among staff. There is massive unrest."

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When: July 20, 2 August, 16 August.

Why: Ground staff and security workers at Aberdeen International Airport have been demanding more pay, with the Unite union claiming that 88 per cent of employees have rejected the latest pay offer, but "remain open" to ongoing negotiations. If the strikes were to go ahead, they would involve about 170 staff members.

The London Underground

When: 10pm tonight (July 11) to 1am on Saturday (July 14).

Why: London Underground drivers on the Piccadilly Line are threatening a 52-hour walkout if a deal isn't reached concerning their working environment. This will co-incide with US President Trump's visit to London and tonight's World Cup semi-final, and could put a strain on other lines, TFL announced.

A statement from the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said that workers "will be striking over a series of attacks on working conditions and staffing levels that have turned the line into a pressure cooker". ​

French railways

When: TBC. France's state railway SNCF has been holding regular walk-outs since April, but haven't announced the next dates yet.

Why: This saga has now has become the longest-running French railway workers' dispute in 30 years. Broadly speaking, Macron is attempting to modernise the French industry and weaken the influence of the unions.

Why are the French always on strike?

Unsurprisingly the unions aren't happy, and oppose the government’s attempt to water down rail workers’ impregnable status, and their gift of jobs for life and early retirements. The Macron camp insists the reforms are essential to stem rising debt and prepare the way for the arrival of European competitors starting next year, but that the reforms are in no way the start of creeping privatisation. Talks are ongoing.

Flight advice

Am I entitled to a refund if my airline cancels my flight?

Yes. European Union regulations require airlines to offer you either a full refund for the unused parts of your tickets, or to re-route you to your destination as soon as possible. Some airlines may also allow you to rebook your flights for a later date at no extra cost.

Will I get compensation?

Airlines are not liable to pay the additional cash compensation set out by EU regulations because they are not directly responsible for the disruption.

At a glance | EU Regulation 261/2004

What should I do if I am stranded abroad?

EU regulations make it clear that, when a flight with an EU airline or from an EU airport is cancelled, an airline is liable to pay for the cost of a hotel and subsistence for all those stranded as a result, until a replacement flight is provided. Should your airline advise you to buy your own food and accommodation, keep all receipts, and keep such costs to a reasonable minimum, before making a claim when you get back to Britain.

What about package holidays?

Those passengers on package holidays who are stranded in a destination should be looked after by their tour operator, and the operator is legally obliged to get them home. Customers will usually be allowed to stay in their original hotel, or will be moved to one of a similar standard on a half-board or all-inclusive basis. The exact situation will depend on the operator’s booking terms and conditions.

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My flight has been cancelled - can I cancel my accommodation?

If you have booked a hotel, a villa or other accommodation independently of your travel arrangements (i.e not as part of a package holiday) your contract is directly with the hotel or villa and you are responsible for any cancellation. If you can’t get there, you will have to do your best to persuade them to give you a refund or rebook for a later date – but they are not obliged to do this and you may lose money.