Brussels Airlines strike has limited impact: Eight in ten flights go ahead

Brussels Airlines strike has limited impact: Eight in ten flights go ahead
A Brussels Airlines strike. Credit: Belga / Dirk Waem

A three-day cabin crew strike began at Brussels Airlines on Wednesday. Initially, it was reported that around one in five flights were cancelled, but the impact has since been limited.

Last week, the Dutch-speaking union ACV Puls and the French-speaking CNE confirmed that Brussels Airlines' cabin crew would be holding a three-day strike, from Wednesday 28 February to Friday 1 March, in the middle of the French-speaking school holidays. As other trade unions are not yet participating, the impact is so far limited on Wednesday.

"The socialist and liberal unions are not joining the strike, which is therefore having a more limited impact," Joëlle Neeb, spokesperson for Brussels Airlines, told The Brussels Times. "Today, 80% of flights are going ahead. For the 20% of cancelled flights, we have been able to find alternatives for all passengers."

She explained that the number of cancelled flights was low because they primarily concern European flights. As Brussels Airlines often operates several flights to the same destination per day, it can transfer passengers to earlier or later flights.

"We are also fortunate to be part of the Lufthansa group, so we can transfer passengers to flights operated by Swiss Airlines, Austrian Airlines or Lufthansa," Neeb added. Those who have been rebooked will therefore arrive at their destinations today.

She underscored that the company still regrets the decision to strike even though it is having little impact on passengers.

Pay and workload

For a long time now, Brussels Airlines' crew have felt completely "deprecated, neglected and exasperated" as demands made several months ago have been ignored by their employer, argued the Christian trade union CNE, which called the strike.

Working conditions for cabin crew have deteriorated since the Covid-19 pandemic when concessions were made by staff to help the struggling company. However, now that Brussels Airlines is posting record results, unions argue that the company is doing little to improve the situation for workers on the social front. They are suffering from long hours, low salaries, a lack of rest periods and increased work pressure.

All unions, including the Christian trade unions who called for the strike, will be meeting with management on Wednesday. "This meeting was planned a long time ago so it is not an emergency decision in response to the strike," Neeb stressed. "The strike's impact on Thursday and Friday will also likely depend on the outcome of this meeting."

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The socialist and liberal unions, for example, are awaiting the outcome of this meeting to decide whether they will join the strike.

"It may be possible that agreements are made and the strikes will be cancelled. But it is also possible, in the worst-case scenario, that other or all unions join the strike," Neeb explained. However, if the situation remains the same and only CNE is striking, Brussels Airlines will likely continue to limit the impact as it did on Wednesday.

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