Airports strikes seem to be part and parcel of summer holidays and Mallorca is no different.
However, there have not been any airport related strikes of note at Palma airport for a little while. More recently, problems, flight delays and cancellations have more likely been a knock-on-effect of industrial action taken elsewhere (e.g. France and Germany).
Summer peak season airport strikes are the worst possibility for travellers when most disruption will be caused and sadly the timing is no coincidence.
Is the prospect of a future strike at Palma airport during your planned vacation a real cause for concern? Is it better to rearrange your travel plans?
Knowing what to expect really depends on what type of strike action is being taken and who is striking.
The worst situation is a widespread walkout of workers, resulting in the stoppage of a critical service, whether it be for 24 hours or longer. A general strike essentially brings an airport to its knees and all passengers will be badly affected.
While this type of airport strike may be a cause for anxiety and a threat to your holiday, luckily in recent times it hasn’t been so frequent.
The most common type of strike to expect at Palma airport is ‘fix period’ stoppages. These are typically of 2-4h hours in duration and happen two or three times in a 24 hour day for up to a week at a time.
While very disruptive to passengers and airlines, in most cases your holiday is safe as flights will still depart and arrive albeit with some possible delays or even rescheduling.
The type of airport occupation striking also makes a difference to how disruptive a strike will be. Baggage handlers striking, which is quite common at Palma, will mean a backlog of luggage.
This means passengers are in for a lengthy wait for their baggage or that they will be without their stuff for a period of time. This could cause real problems although in most cases it will mean a little extra waiting. If the strike is a complete walk out it could cause the airport to close although this is unlikely.
A few years back coach drivers went on strike, which doesn’t sound so serious but it caused such congestion of passengers at Palma airport that there was talk of closing the airport. Flights still went though.
Air traffic controllers striking in a complete walk out would bring the airport to a grinding halt. In most cases this won’t happen for a couple of reasons.
In the interests for safety and national security Spanish law technically bans air traffic controllers from completely walking out. Air traffic controllers are not to have less than 70 per cent of staff on duty during a strike.
This means the airport will function but with possible delays and rescheduling. Also Spanish air traffic controllers have recently been taking fixed period stoppages rather than a full strike.
Another reassuring point is that in the past Spain’s military have been called in to handle the air traffic control during general strikes. However this is a last resort and the military would probably struggle to man all the airports in Spain in the event of a national walkout.
Airlines and airports advise passengers to monitor their flights and their airlines websites closely and prepare for delays. Sometimes with a strike looming a flight may be brought forward by a few hours.
Passengers finding themselves trapped for up to three or more hours without taking preparatory measures could face an unpleasant wait.
Travelers should pack enough clothing, snacks, fluids and especially vital medication for a potential delay.
Airlines will try to operate a full schedule. In most cases flights are delayed.
Sometimes airlines will try to avoid delays and the strike period by bringing flights forward. Other flights during the strike period may be rescheduled for a few hours later, often to the early hours of the morning.
When a flight is cancelled airlines will try to contact passengers to save them an unnecessary journey to the airport, this is usually via email or an SMS.
A few airlines will operate larger aircraft to catch up with the buildup of passengers from cancelled flights.
Tour operators and some airlines will try to look after the needs of their passenger in whatever way they can, often with refreshments, but isn’t to be expected.
Some tour operators will make contingency plans and reserve hotel rooms in the event that their clients will be stranded.