The strikes that could ruin your summer holiday

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

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

Holidaymakers at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and 5 face yet more stress this summer due to security officers walking out for a total of 31 days between June 24 and August 27. Around 2,000 workers who are members of the Unite union will strike over key travel dates including the start of the school summer holidays and August bank holiday.

Beyond UK borders, travel-related strikes in Europe are affecting 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. Industrial action has also interrupted travel in Italy, Portugal, Spain and Germany this year.

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 difficulty for travellers during the summer holidays is set to be another round of strikes at Heathrow. The Unite union has announced security workers at Terminal 3 and 5 will walk out for a total of 31 days between June 25 and August 27. Previous action was limited to Terminal 5 – where the majority of British Airways flights depart – but new strikes could also have an effect on airlines including Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Qatar, American, United and Delta.

The confirmed strike dates are:

  • June, 24-25 and 28-30

  • July 14-16, 21-24 and 28-31

  • August 4-7, 11-14, 18-20, 24-26 and 27

These dates span some of the busiest travel days of the year including start of the school summer holidays and the August bank holiday. The union has called the action a “significant escalation” and said it will “heavily affect” British Airways summer schedules.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King added: “Delays, disruption and cancellations will be inevitable as a result of the strike action. But this dispute is completely of Heathrow Airport’s own making.”

A spokesperson for Heathrow, meanwhile, has downplayed the potential impact of the strikes: “Passengers can rest assured that we will do everything we can to minimise strike disruption so they can enjoy their hard-earned summer holidays. Unite has already tried and failed to disrupt the airport with unnecessary strikes on some of our busiest days and we continue to build our plans to protect journeys during any future action.”


France is enduring another round of general walkouts (between June 5-7) due to ongoing tensions about new pension reforms, due to be enacted on September 1.

Ryanair said it was forced to cancel 400 flights on June 6 due to French air traffic controllers striking, with CEO Michael O’Leary warning that the walk-outs don’t just affect those travelling to France: “The vast majority of these flights are overflights. They are not going to France. They are flying from Britain to Spain, from Portugal to Germany, from Italy to Ireland.”

With no end in sight to the dispute, it’s likely more strikes will be announced. Departures from the UK could experience delays or last-minute cancellations.

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

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. 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.