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Italian low-cost airline staff to strike on October 1st

Pilots and flight attendants from Ryanair and Vueling will strike on Saturday, October 1st over wages and working conditions, unions said.

Ryanair check-in counters at Barcelona's El Prat airport.
Pilots and cabin crew from low-cost carrier Ryanair will take part in a 24-hour strike on Saturday, October 1st. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

Pilots and cabin crew from Ryanair and Vueling will take part in a national strike action on Saturday, October 1st, Italian unions confirmed in a statement released on Monday. 

The statement said Ryanair staff will hold a 24-hour walkout, whereas Vueling staff will strike for a total of four hours, from 1pm to 5pm.

At the time of writing it wasn’t yet clear how the strike would affect passengers, though significant delays or cancellations can’t be ruled out. 

Italian trade unions Filt-Cgil and Uiltrasporti called the strike in protest against the employers’ failure to “grant acceptable working conditions and wages that are in line with minimum national salaries”. 

Unions also slammed Spanish airline Vueling’s decision to lay off 17 flight attendants based in Rome’s Fiumicino Airport “after months of hard work and professionalism”. 

A Vueling Airbus A320 plane.

Staff from Spanish airline Vueling will strike over working conditions and the recent lay-off of 17 flight attendants. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The upcoming strike will be the latest in a long series of demonstrations that rocked Europe’s airline industry over the summer, causing significant disruption to thousands of air passengers. 

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

The last significant strike was held on Monday of last week, when a 24-hour national strike from unionised ground staff caused Italy’s flag carrier, ITA Airways, to cancel several domestic flights. 

On that occasion, ITA said affected passengers were rebooked on the first available flights.

As with all previous strikes, passengers travelling with Ryanair or Vueling on Saturday, October 1st are advised to contact their airline for updates prior to setting off.

In the event of delays and/or cancellations, the rights of all passengers are protected by EU regulation EC 261. This applies to any air passenger flying within the EU/Schengen zone, arriving in the EU/Schengen zone from a non-EU country by means of a EU-based airline (all airlines involved in the strike are EU-based) or departing from the EU/Schengen zone. 

READ ALSO: Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

According to this regulation, airlines are financially accountable for any journey disruption they are responsible for. That includes disruptions caused by airline staff strikes. Therefore, should your flight be significantly delayed or cancelled, you might be entitled to receive compensation from your airline. 

For further information on what you might be entitled to and in which cases, check our guide here.

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STRIKES

Should you travel in Italy when there’s a strike on?

Transport strikes are a frequent occurrence in Italy, but how disruptive are they usually and what else should you consider if you’re planning to travel? Here’s what you need to know.

Should you travel in Italy when there’s a strike on?

Let’s be honest: strikes in Italy are hardly unusual. 

If you’re wondering whether the news about upcoming transport strikes means you should rethink your travel plans, here are some things to bear in mind.

Travel disruption

Strikes are of course intended to cause disruption, and in that they’re often pretty effective (Italian workers have had enough practice, after all).

So there is often a possibility that your plane, train, bus or ferry might be delayed or cancelled.

But just because there is a transport strike in the news, don’t assume that everything will be cancelled.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s transport strikes will impact travel on Friday

Unions often target transport services because these are highly visible, and these are also the type of strikes that tend to get international media coverage, because they affect visitors to Italy.

But strikes in Italy vary hugely in how much disruption they cause, to which services, and where.

It also depends on which unions are involved – the Italian union landscape is pretty complex and divides along political lines so that, for example, train drivers at a single company could be represented by any one of several different unions.

For this reason, strikes only really cause widespread disruption when all or most of the unions agree to strike on the same day. 

Otherwise you’re likely to see some services cancelled but others running as normal. 

If this is the case you will probably be able to get to your destination, it might just take a little more time with unusually crowded trains/buses.

If you have a pre-booked ticket for a cancelled service, you can usually take the next one at no extra charge.

If you’re travelling by plane things are obviously less flexible, and the best thing to do is check with your airline.

In many recent cases, disruption and delays to flights have been caused not by Italian airline staff striking, but by baggage handlers or air traffic control going on strike.

When this happens, again it does not necessarily involve every airport in Italy, or every member of staff at an airport, so it rarely causes as much chaos as you might expect.

And a minimum level of ‘essential’ service is always guaranteed at certain times of day when there’s a strike on.

Check strike timetables

Essential workers such as transport workers are required to give notice of their intention to strike, which means that some operators create ‘strike timetables’ of the services that will be running, or sometimes lists of cancelled flights, which are usually available at least 24 hours in advance. 

You can use these to see what is running and whether it’s worth travelling or not.

With strikes being so heavily regulated in Italy, the transport ministry also helpfully compiles an official strike calendar, which you can find here.

While the official list of strikes sometimes looks long at first glance, you’ll notice that many of these events affect only one small part of the country, or that only members of one union are participating.

Countless small, localised strikes happen in Italy every year, and most of them barely get any media coverage at home, never mind internationally. 

A nationwide, 24-hour transport strike is more likely to cause problems for passengers – but again, it all depends where you’re going, at what time, and how.

Unions always claim in advance that their protest will bring the country to a complete standstill. This is generally just a rhetorical flourish that you can probably ignore – check the strike timetables for the full picture. 

You can also check out The Local’s strike section HERE for the latest news on strikes and which services will be affected.

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