Industrial Action Extraordinary in the UK?

A mass strike at Lufthansa caused sizeable inconvenience to UK passengers yesterday with over 1600 flights affected throughout Europe.

Flights to and from London, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dublin were affected, with virtually all flights cancelled.

Dutch Courts have found that industrial action is not an extraordinary circumstance under EU Regulation 261/2004. They are of the opinion that sufficient notice is given of the strike for the airline to resolve the matter and they are a common occurrence of running a business. German Courts take the polar opposite view, finding that a strike is always an extraordinary circumstance and as such these are not claimable flights.

We are not aware of any test cases within the UK Legal System. The test set down within the regulations state :-

1) is there an extraordinary circumstance;
2) could it have been avoided if reasonable measures were taken.

The second question is the pertinent point – could the airline have avoided the industrial action? To consider this we have to think about Union Laws in the appropriate countries, how much notice of the action was given and how many staff were on strike. At this point it is difficult to give a conclusive stance on how UK Judges will interpret this circumstance.

In this particular instance, given the amount of flights cancelled we would expect that a significant amount of staff were absent and as such the Court would likely be deemed extraordinary. Unfortunately we do not believe you can successfully claim for these flights.

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