The strikes that could ruin your holiday – our calendar of travel chaos

british airways - HANNAH MCKAY/Reuters
british airways - HANNAH MCKAY/Reuters

We are becoming all too familiar with strikes impacting our everyday lives, and it’s now time to consider how upcoming industrial action could also throw your holiday plans into disarray.

Holidaymakers at Heathrow's Terminal 5 face more stress this month due to security workers walking out over the Coronation weekend and the late May bank holiday.

Beyond UK borders, travel-related strikes in Europe are impacting holidays. Frequent rounds of strikes in France over pension reforms have caused issues across its transport network, with flight and Eurostar cancellations plus ferry delays.

Here we round up the travel strikes across key European holiday destinations in the coming months. This page will be regularly updated to reflect the latest information, but note that some strikes are announced with little notice.


The most significant stressor for travellers over the Coronation weekend is set to be another round of strikes at Heathrow. The Unite union has announced security workers at Terminal 5 – where the majority of British Airways flights depart – will walk out on May 4, 5, 6, 9 and 10 in a dispute over pay.

They will also take action at the end of the month (from May 25-27), in a move the union has dubbed “May mayhem”.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said the strikes "will cause further disruption to airport passengers but this dispute is a direct result of Heathrow’s stubborn refusal to make an offer that meets our members’ expectations.”

Heathrow, however, has downplayed the chance of major disruption. A spokesperson said: “We kept Heathrow running smoothly during the first 10 days of Unite’s failed industrial action, and passengers can have confidence that we will do so again this time.

“We will not let Unite disrupt the flow of visitors to the UK during such an important period for the country.”

Anyone needing to apply for, or renew, a passport could also be impacted by industrial action. More than 1,000 Passport Office workers have been on strike since April 3, which will continue until early May. And the PCS union has escalated the action in the run up to the Coronation, with 1,000 more workers in admin roles walking out between May 2-6. A number of interview officers working in Birmingham, Corby, Hemel Hempstead, Leeds, Portsmouth, Sheffield and Plymouth are also on strike between May 3-6.

Elsewhere, rail strikes are planned for May 12, May 31 and June 3. The first day of walkouts will likely impact thousands of people travelling to the Eurovision final on May 13 in Liverpool.


No stranger to strikes, France is experiencing another round of general walkouts due to outrage about pension reforms, which are due to be enacted on September 1.

French trade unions have called for a day of nation-wide strikes and protests on June 6. This sees rail services, buses and flights impacted. On recent strike days, around 25 per cent of flights were cancelled to and from Paris Orly airport.

Departures from the UK could experience delays or last minute cancellations.


Pilots working for Spain's Air Europa are on strike from May 1 to 5 over a wage dispute. The action will involve around 340 pilots, though may not cause widespread disruption as Spanish law requires a minimum level of service is maintained.


A nationwide general strike on May 26, may catch out holidaymakers hopping on bus, trams or metro lines in Italy. So far, it's unclear whether long-distance trains will also be impacted.

What to do if your travel plans are impacted by strike action?

Before travelling, be sure to check whether there are any strikes on the ground in your destination and plan accordingly. Even localised train strikes, for example, could create issues travelling from the airport upon arrival.

If your flight is delayed or cancelled due to strike action, contact your airline immediately. Airlines are obliged to offer assistance such as food and drink or accommodation for extensive delays due to industrial action. Most will endeavour to place you on another flight where space allows.

For flights which are cancelled outright, whether you are entitled to compensation depends on if the strike is considered to be something the airline could feasibly control. Under UK and EU law, you're only entitled to a refund if your carrier informs you your flight is cancelled less than 14 days' from the date you're due to fly.

For more information on what to do if your flight is delayed or cancelled, read our comprehensive guide, here.