The strikes that could ruin your spring holiday – and how to claim compensation

An empty Heathrow Terminal 5
Disruptions are expected at Heathrow in April and May - BEN STANSALL/AFP

We are becoming all too familiar with strikes having an impact on our everyday lives – and upcoming industrial action could also throw your spring holiday plans into disarray.

A fresh wave of strikes has been announced, with more than 300 Border Officers expected to strike at the end of April. It’s the latest development in a line of walkouts impacting travel in Britain, and one that has the potential to cause disruption.

Here we round up the travel strikes across the UK and Europe in the coming months and advise what to do if your plans are upset. This page will be regularly updated to reflect the latest information, but note that some strikes are announced with little notice.

Travel disruption this spring


Border Force strikes at Heathrow Airport

More than 300 UK Border Force officers at Heathrow – Britain’s busiest airport – will strike from April 29 to May 2. 

According to the PCS trade union, officers are taking the action to dispute shift pattern alterations. More than 90 per cent of members voted to walk out, with union general secretary Fran Heathcote saying: “The Home Office should be doing all it can to retain experienced, trained staff – not lose them by introducing an unworkable new roster system.”

In response, the Home Office has pledged to decrease the impact on holidaymakers, promising “robust plans to minimise delays.” At this stage, it is unknown how the strikes will be managed, but factor in extra time at the airport as a precaution and check the latest advice from your airline.

heathrow airport
Disruption is expected at Heathrow this spring - Akabei/iStock


Air traffic control strikes in France

Air traffic controllers are planning to strike on Thursday May 25, in a move that will affect flights passing over the country in addition to those landing.

A spokesperson for the SNCTA union, which represents more than 60 per cent of France’s air traffic controllers, said that a record turnout was expected. “People should expect major disruption and long delays,” they said.

The 24-hour walkout will see around 70 per cent of flights in and out of the country delayed, with potential disruption to those using the airspace.

What to do if your travel plans are affected by strike action

“There can be no excuse for airlines playing fast and loose with their legal obligations if flights are delayed or cancelled,” says travel writer Jo Rhodes. “Time and again, passengers have missed out on being rerouted with rival carriers or receiving assistance because airlines haven’t held up their side of the bargain.” Travellers are advised to “prepare for disruption to their journeys”.

Before travelling, check whether there are any strikes in your destination and plan accordingly. Localised train strikes, for example, could create issues travelling from the airport upon arrival.

Below, we outline your rights for major modes of transport. Find our comprehensive guide to all the advice you need this summer here.


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 that are cancelled outright, whether you are entitled to compensation depends on if the strike is considered to be something the airline could feasibly control. In the case of European air traffic control strikes, for example, this wouldn’t be seen as the airline’s responsibility. Those who have booked package holidays, however, may have protection from rules set by the tour operator or travel industry bodies.

More generally, 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.

Rhodes warns holidaymakers to check insurance policies carefully. “This summer is set to be one of the busiest in recent history, and it’s essential that airlines and airports work together to keep travellers updated of any potential issues.”

“Make sure you have travel insurance from the date you book your holiday and check the policy carefully to ensure it covers you in the event of strike action.”

Unfortunately for travellers yet to purchase, once industrial action has been announced (even without exact dates) travellers would not be able to buy cover for strikes.

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

Trains and Eurostar services

If you have purchased an advance ticket and the train is rescheduled or cancelled due to strike action, you are entitled to a change or refund.

The refund process depends on each operator, but most have a straightforward “delay repay” system. Be sure to contact the retailer you purchased the ticket from.

As for Eurostar, if your train has been cancelled or announced as delayed before departure by more than 60 minutes, you can reschedule your trip for another date or swap your ticket for an e-voucher, which you can use to rebook later in the year or claim a cash refund. Those whose trains are delayed after departure are entitled to partial refunds, depending on the length of the delay. Find more information here.


According to the trade body Abta, if your ferry is expected to be delayed or cancelled, you should be provided with free snacks, meals and refreshments in relation to the waiting time. Refreshments should be provided even if the reason for the cancellation is bad weather (considered out of the company’s control).

When your ferry operator cancels your service due to strike action, it should offer the choice of an alternative or a refund.

You are entitled to compensation of 25 per cent of your ticket price, for that part of the affected journey, if your service is delayed in arrival by at least:

  • one hour for a journey of four hours

  • two hours for a journey between four and eight hours

  • three hours for a journey between eight and 24 hours

  • six hours for a journey of more than 24 hours

If the delay exceeds double the time set out, the compensation should be 50 per of the ticket price. The ferry operator must pay compensation within one month of the submission of a substantiated claim for compensation. Passengers should note that compensation isn’t payable where the delay was caused by weather conditions endangering the safe operation of the ferry or by extraordinary and unavoidable circumstances that hindered the sailing.

This piece is kept regularly updated with the latest strike news.