The European Court of Justice (CJEU) decided: So called "wildcat strikes" are no excuse for airlines to not compensate their passengers for delays or cancellations.
In September 2016, many staff members of TUIfly called in sick after the company surprised them by announcing restructuring measures. That lead to a lot of cancellations and delays of flights. It took days until the management and the works council reached an agreement and the airline operated normally again.
According to the European air passenger rights regulation, consumers whose flights were delayed or got cancelled are entitled to compensation. The only exception are extraordinary circumstances which the airline could neither foresee nor prevent. Examples for such circumstances are natural catastrophes - and strikes.
The German TUIfly argued respectively and refused to pay compensation to the affected passengers.
The CJEU now decided that a "wildcat strike", which means a spontaneous activity of the staff, cannot be considered to be an "extraordinary circumstance".
In its press release, the court stated the following:
"The spontaneous absence of a significant part of the flight staff (in the form of a ‘wildcat strike’ such as that in question), which stems from the surprise announcement by an operating air carrier of a restructuring of the undertaking, following a call relayed not by the representatives of the workers of the undertaking but spontaneously by the workers themselves who placed themselves on sick leave, does not fall within the concept of ‘extraordinary circumstances’."
As mentioned before, the characteristics of an extraordinary circumstance are that it is neither predictable nor preventable. These factors don't apply to the situation of TUIfly, said the CJEU.
TUIfly had to expect some sort of discontent of its employees, following the announcement of the restructuring process. The strike ended as they reached an agreement with the work council, which - according to the CJEU - proves that the disruption of the flight operations was "manageable" by the company.
Read more about your consumer rights as an air passenger in our article "Problems during air travel".