When you’re ready to jet off to a place far away from home, there is nothing more disheartening than being notified of airline industrial action.
I work in business travel as a travel alerts coordinator, so I see it time and time again. However, this is the first time that I am personally being affected by it and it’s so not a great feeling!
Let’s set the scene… Lufthansa pilots started strike action on Wednesday, continued it Thursday and once again announced flight disruption on Friday. As I sat at my desk this morning, as sods-law would have it, Lufthansa pilots have decided to carry it on well into Saturday – the day Mo and I are due to travel!!
I thought I’d share a few tips on how to prepare, if, like us, you’re due to travel on a potentially strike-affected flight:
Don’t Panic, you will get there!
EU Regulations make sure airlines either offer you a full refund or re-route you to your final destination. They don’t have to offer you a cash refund by law, but if the strike action leaves you stranded, the airline is liable to put you up in a hotel and to pay for amenities. If they ask you to claim back any expenses, do NOT go overboard booking top notch hotels and restaurants, as there may be a limit to how much money you can claim back.
Not a lot of travel insurance policies cover strike action, so don’t go relying on those either. It’s always worth keeping a copy of your travel insurance details saved somewhere accessible, like your email.
Ring Ring Ring
Get on the phone to them ASAP. The quicker you get in there – the more chance you have of getting on the next available flight, you’ll be amazed at how quick they can fill up.
You could however find yourself in an awkward situation like the one I’m in, where the airline customer service desk is adamant my flight is not cancelled, however the published list of cancelled flights says otherwise.
If you find yourself in this position, you have two options – if you don’t want to chance it, most airlines will offer to reschedule your flight free of charge for a later date or time.
Or you can do what I plan on doing and chance it. After all, as I mentioned above, it is their responsibility to get you where you’ve paid to be.
Choose an airline that has alliance partners
If your airline is prone to strike action (Italian and German carriers seem to strike a LOT), then try and book an airline that has alliance partners. Gives you a better chance of getting on the next flight out.
Take Photos of any checked in luggage
There’s nothing worse than losing your luggage, if you’re on connecting flights and somewhere along the line you come across a delay, there is a chance you could have some issues locating your checked-in bags.
When strike action is announced, most airlines tend to have the lost luggage departments armed and ready to deal with any problems. I would always advise taking a quick pic of your bags on your phone to save you having to describe it, especially if you’re somewhere where you don’t speak the language.
Don’t forget luggage tags too!
Take provisions in case of long waiting times
Make sure you take some form of entertainment (I recently had a bit of a mini meltdown at an airport when we had two hours to kill and there was literally NOTHING to do).
Kindles, iPods, puzzle books, games, laptops… whatever keeps you occupied. You never know how long you could be waiting for. Don’t forget to carry the chargers for your electronics too.
Get on twitter
And lastly, for up to date travel alerts it’s definitely worth following @Portmantravel on twitter. I update @Portmantravel Monday to Friday, with updates that could affect your travel plans, and along with some help from my colleagues, tend to get the majority of strikes up, well in advance (when possible – there’s always one or two sly, unannounced disruptions to keep everyone on their toes).
It’s also worth following your specific carriers or airports before your trip, as most companies update their twitter accounts with any breaking news before announcing it anywhere else.
So that’s my main list. I’m sure there’s many more that I haven’t mentioned, but as I have to set off at 3am to catch a flight that may well not even be flying, I should probably try and get some sleep.
Anyone else got any travel tips for a smooth journey??