What rights do passengers have during wildcat strikes?

If massive numbers of employees at an airline report sick at the same time, according to the ECJ, this is an “exceptional circumstance”. What does that mean for passengers?

Even in the case of mass reports of illness, airlines should take all reasonable measures to prevent delays or cancellations.

FAccording to an advocate general at the European Court of Justice, airlines do not have to pay any compensation if they cannot operate flights as planned because of a wildcat strike. Work stoppages, which are not legitimized under labor and collective bargaining law, represent an “exceptional circumstance” which makes an exemption from the obligation to pay compensation possible, argued Evgeni Tanchev on Thursday in an expert opinion on a lawsuit brought by customers of the German airline Tuifly. However, the airline must take all reasonable measures to prevent delays or cancellations.

The background to the proceedings at the ECJ is the wildcat strike by Tuifly employees in autumn 2016. In the course of this, more than 100 flights were canceled and many others were only able to start with considerable delays. Since then, those affected have been suing for compensation payments in German courts. The district courts of Hanover and Düsseldorf then turned on the ECJ and asked, among other things, to clarify whether wildcat strikes represent an exceptional circumstance within the meaning of the European Air Passenger Rights Ordinance.

The judgment of the ECJ is expected in a few months. In many cases, the judges agree with the Advocate General’s interpretation of the law.