When the plane doesn't take off: those affected by the strike at Frankfurt Airport
Photo: Frank Rumpenhorst / dpa
Flying this summer could almost feel like 2019, the year before the pandemic: the airports are full.
However, many flights are canceled or delayed.
The airports in Frankfurt and Munich are currently among the top ten major airports with the most delays worldwide.
The travel fever is back, but the staff only partially.
And when there is a strike, like last week at Lufthansa, there is chaos:
130,000 Lufthansa passengers did not reach their destination on time last Wednesday and Thursday because the airline's ground staff went on strike.
Management complained that the labor dispute was "incomprehensible," "unacceptable," and canceled over 1,000 flights in Germany.
But collective bargaining has been going on since the end of June and after two failed rounds of negotiations warning strikes are normal.
After the €35 million strike, Lufthansa reached an agreement with Ver.di this Thursday.
What you are entitled to
If the flight is canceled it's annoying, but as a European passenger you are relatively well protected.
These are your rights during a flight strike and what you can do:
If a flight is canceled and this is only announced at short notice, passengers initially have the right to
transportation , i.e. travel with another airline or by train to the same destination.
They are also entitled to cold drinks, a snack and the opportunity to make phone calls while they are waiting.
If an overnight stay should become necessary, this will also be paid for.
Details can be found in the corresponding guide from »Finanztip« .
If the replacement flight doesn't work out right away, you can arrange replacement transportation yourself and charge the airline for the costs.
In the event of such problems, package tourists contact their tour operator as a contractual partner.
If you are unable to get a replacement flight on the same day, you can continue your journey the following day at the airline's expense.
If in doubt, the airline must also pay for the
If you don't want to fly the next day - or if that doesn't make sense, for example because you missed the planned business appointment anyway - you can ask for your
back for the ticket.
The airline must transfer this within a week.
The interesting question is whether you are also entitled to compensation under the 20-year-old EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation 261/2004 because of the strike that was announced at short notice.
That would pay off quite a bit for you as a passenger: for flights up to 1500 kilometers there would be 250 euros in compensation per head and direction, up to 3500 kilometers it would be 400 euros, for routes of more than 3500 kilometers from departure to destination airport - so also with Stopover – even 600 euros.
This applies to all passengers who start or land in the EU – but the latter only if they are traveling with a European airline.
Compensation is also only available if the airline did not inform you about the flight cancellation in good time and did not take you to your destination on a replacement flight.
In the case of a short-term announcement less than seven days before the flight, the replacement flight should depart no more than one hour earlier and arrive no more than two hours later, otherwise compensation will be given.
And unless there are exceptional circumstances.
When it comes to strikes, however, airlines tend to think they are innocent.
These are exceptional circumstances.
If you as a customer want compensation in this situation, airlines will also fight in court.
Strikes are something like the volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland in 2010, which airlines are not responsible for.
Not only the courts in Germany now see things differently, but also the European Court of Justice.
In short: Strikes can be exceptional circumstances in terms of the Air Passenger Rights Regulation, but they don't have to be.
If the air traffic controllers in France go on strike, the airline Lufthansa cannot help it.
These are exceptional circumstances, she does not have to pay any compensation.
If the security staff at Frankfurt Airport go on strike and the Easyjet passenger from Dublin cannot fly, EasyJet cannot help it: extraordinary circumstances, no compensation - this is how the Federal Court of Justice ruled in a comparable case (cf. BGH, X ZR 111/17 ).
However, if Ryanair staff go on strike for higher wages and the plane does not take off because of this, this is very much the airline's responsibility.
And that is why they have to make a compensation payment, according to the district court in Königs-Wusterhausen, Az. 4 C 3348/18 (2), which is responsible for Berlin Airport.
In principle, the same applies when Lufthansa ground staff go on strike; after all, it is Lufthansa staff who are dissatisfied with their employer.
Last year, the European Court of Justice ordered the Scandinavian airline SAS to pay compensation for a strike by its pilots (ECJ, March 23, 2021 - C-28/20).
She is responsible for the behavior of the employees and cannot rely on extraordinary circumstances.
As some of you may know, getting compensation from an airline isn't that easy.
The money was not even returned on time for canceled flights at the beginning of the Corona phase.
A Lufthansa spokesman already announced to me on Thursday that "where there are justified claims, we will of course also pay compensation".
The case law of the ECJ regarding strikes "made very clear specifications".
But sometimes it gets stuck.
Don't let this discourage you and in any case claim compensation.
Persistence pays off in many cases.
This is the best way to proceed:
You write to the airline that you want the money back for the flight and compensation on top of that.
There are sample letters for this at »Finanztip«.
If the airline objects, you can contact the SÖP arbitration board for public transport.
They will take care of your case free of charge.
If that doesn't work, you can go to court.
If you have legal protection insurance, there is no financial risk, apart from paying the deductible.
However, you have to be prepared for the fact that the airline will stonewall you.
If you don't have legal protection insurance or don't feel like going to court, there are legal service providers who can help you.
Many of these passenger helpers work like a collection agency.
They're trying to get the money back for you.
If that works, the service provider receives the compensation after a few months and keeps 20 to 30 percent of it as a success bonus.
If it doesn't work, the service won't cost you a cent.
Alternatively, there are legal service providers who will immediately buy your right to compensation for 60 to 70 percent of what compensation you would be entitled to.
The service providers are already doing this with Lufthansa's strikes from last week.
The advantage of this model: As a passenger, you already have the larger part of your money safe.
If your service provider often wins in court, this is also a lucrative business model for him.
If he doesn't win, he might have a problem.
But you already have your money.
There is a lot to get for legal service providers at Lufthansa this fall.
And it will not stay with Lufthansa.
In Spain, EasyJet and Ryanair employees are currently threatening to go on strike.
And the pilots from Cockpit also want to go on strike.