Sunday 4 December 2016

Avoid terminal troubles

Don't let strikes ruin your holiday plans. Simon Calder guides you through your rights

Simon Calder

Published 19/03/2011 | 05:00

Thousands of Irish holidaymakers heading for the Med this spring and summer could have their holiday plans disrupted by a series of strikes by airport workers.

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Ground staff at Spanish airports are threatening industrial action starting in April and continuing into the summer season.

So, what are the likely effects if you are planning a holiday? Here's the lowdown.

Q Who's planning to strike, and why are they unhappy?

AWorkers from maintenance staff to airport firefighters who work for Aena, the state airport authority. They are protesting against the government's plans to sell off the airports, fearing it could hit their jobs. And they're probably right: at present they enjoy relatively benign conditions.

If their workplaces were sold off to big infrastructure companies, they would face demands for much higher productivity.

Q What impact could the strikes have?

AThe dates specified, going to press, are April 20, 21, 24, 25 and 30; May 2, 14, 15, 19 and 20; June 13, 23 and 30; July 1, 2, 3, 4, 15 and 31; and August 1, 15 and 31.

At busy times, such as during Easter and in July and August, as many as 5,000 people a day could be expecting to fly to or from Spain.

In a worst-case scenario, the big holiday airports such as Alicante, Malaga, Palma and across the Canary Islands could grind to a halt.

There could also be repercussions for other travellers if planes and pilots are stranded out of position. However, the government in Madrid signalled last September -- when air-traffic controllers walked out on a lightning strike -- that it will take a hard line with any group of workers threatening to disrupt tourism, and, of course, the travel plans of Spanish people themselves.

Plans to bring the military in to provide emergency cover could help ease the hardship for foreign arrivals.

Q If you have a holiday booked, what are your rights?

AVery few. At this stage, all you can do is wait to see what happens. No airline or tour operator will cancel flights at this stage, and anyone seeking to cancel their holiday could lose some or all of their money.

If your homebound flight is delayed because of a strike, the airline has a strict duty of care towards you. It must provide meals and accommodation as necessary until it can bring you home.

If, however, you decide to find some other way home -- for example, because of work or family commitments -- then the airline's only liability to you is to refund your fare.

Q And if you haven't yet booked?

AMany will no doubt avoid Spain, not least because travel insurers may reject claims arising from strike-hit flights if you booked after the industrial action was announced.

But with holiday companies having cut back on flights to Egypt and Tunisia after the political unrest, this could increase prices for destinations such as Cyprus and Malta.

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