The strike by baggage handlers working for Aviapartner at Brussels Airport continues this Saturday, with one in five flights already cancelled – 110 of the scheduled 550 flights. Unions and management were due to arrive for talks at 10.00 on Saturday, but potential passengers for Sunday flights were already being warned to expect further cancellations. On Friday, the dispute extended to airports at Liege and Ostend, with a total of 150 flights cancelled.
To make matters worse than they might otherwise be, today is the first day of the autumn school holiday, which makes it more likely that families going off on holiday are among those affected. That’s unlikely to be a coincidence in the unions’ decision to strike now, although the stoppage is unofficial because it was not announced in advance. Among those airlines most affected is TUI, the largest tour operator in Europe. Brussels Airlines, the flagship airline operating out of Zaventem, is not affected, as it is not a client of Aviapartner. Counting only the airlines affected, 70,000 people are scheduled to depart today, and 74,000 on Sunday.
As the dispute continues, more and more people are asking, what right if any do we have to compensation? Passengers were being advised by Brussels Airport to return home and await instructions, but about 40 people spent the night at the airport itself – those waiting for a connecting flight, or who were on their way home to their own country.
Consumer organisation Test-Achats advises passengers affected by the strike to file a compensation claim with their own tour operator. For anyone who had to find a hotel room, compensation can be claimed of between €100 and €200. Anyone living close to the airport and able to go home can claim transportation costs.
However, director Simon November said there is no claim against tour operators for delayed or cancelled flights, but flights cancelled by the airline itself can attract compensation of the full fare. Brussels Airport company has no exposure to compensation claims.
Passengers whose flights are delayed are entitled to food and drink, either supplied by their tour operator or bought elsewhere, the costs being refunded on presentation of receipts. Finally, passengers who are allowed to depart but with only hand baggage and no suitcase should receive an emergency package of toiletries from their airline, otherwise they can buy supplies at their destination and claim the expense later. Test-Achats advises keeping receipts for everything.
The Brussels Times will be following today’s developments in talks between the two sides in the dispute, and will report on the results tomorrow.