Another strike at Brussels Airlines to scare away customers (update)

A previously announced four-day strike by Brussels Airlines pilots was first postponed, but the unions reinitiated it for 27 to 30 March at the last minute on Wednesday evening as negotiating with the employer for higher wages was ‘close’ but ‘not sufficient’. The management proposal to compensate higher wages by less weekend rest days, was ‘unacceptable’.

The social conflict and multiple strike announcements at Brussels Airlines are affecting travelers. So says Jean-François Defour, spokesperson for the Professional Association of Travel Agencies (Upas), in the newspaper La Libre Belgique. According to Dufour, the recent strikes and strike threats have hurt travel agencies and tour operators in Belgium. “Customers no longer want to fly with Brussels Airlines,” he says.

Image suffers

Customers are dropping out. Everyone who books a plane trip wants a guarantee that they can enjoy the vacation with peace of mind or that the trip can take place. Every airline company knows that its image suffers when there is no guarantee that a booked trip cannot go ahead.

Exact figures on the number of travelers dropping out of Brussels Airlines because of the social unrest are unavailable. However, several strike actions earlier this year cost the airline 4 million euros.

For the Belgian with vacation or travel plans, the knot is quickly undone: another, more reliable airline is chosen, such as Transavaia, Air Europe, Ryanair, or another foreign company that also departs from Brussels Airport and offers the same destinations as Brussels Airlines.

A lot of extra work

According to Jean-François Defour, travel agents are not yet abandoning Brussels Airlines because it is a long-term partner. However, all the cancellations create a lot of extra work, and in the case of a cancellation, the airline itself must also find an alternative flight for its customers.

Fortunately, since Brussels Airlines is part of the Lufthansa Group and the Star Alliance, one of the largest airline networks in the world, it is not too bad in that area.

The ticket is refunded, but…

You have the right to a new flight if your flight is canceled due to a strike. The airline must offer you the first possible flight. You can also refuse the flight; in that case, the airline must refund your ticket.

But beware. If a third party, such as air traffic control, baggage handlers, customs, or airport employees, strikes, you are not entitled to compensation. It is referred to as an extraordinary circumstance in these situations because the airline is not responsible for the delay or cancellation of your flight.

Nw strike off the table for now

Pilots earlier threatened with a strike at the end of December last year, but it was withdrawn at the last minute. During the coronavirus crisis, they had to hand in thousands of euros in annual salaries. The unions believe that now that Brussels Airlines’ figures are improving again, the pilots’ pay should go up. For a long time, the airline seemed unwilling to do so, but talks have resumed.

Both parties were meeting again on Wednesday, but the hope on a final agreement vanished, so the strike was back on the table, from March 27 to March 30. An agreement on better wages for cabin crew was already reached early this week. Earlier this year, stewards and flight attendants laid off work out of dissatisfaction with the failure to reach an agreement.


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