Thousands of Air France passengers all over the world faced disruptions to their itineraries today, following a labor strike involving the carrier’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff.
According to a representative from Air France’s office in Paris, 28 percent of its employees went on strike on today, which forced the airline to cancel 25 percent of its flights scheduled for the day. Long-haul flights are the most affected: the airline plans to operate only 50 percent of those scheduled to depart from Paris. However, Air France will still operate 75 percent of its medium-haul flights to and from Charles de Gaulle Airport and 85 percent of its short-haul flights.
“I know of many Air France passengers who have had to rearrange their itineraries by leaving a day earlier or later or have had to reschedule their trips all together,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and the founder of Atmosphere Research Group.he said. Mr. Harteveldt also said that Air France is one of the largest European carriers to Africa, and fliers with Air France tickets to and from the continent may find themselves stranded.
To add confusion to an already aggravating situation, Michael Holtz, the owner of SmartFlyer, a global travel consultancy specializing in airlines, said that Air France has several code share partners such as Delta Air Lines, Korean Air and Aeromexico. This could potentially mean that passengers who have purchased their tickets through those airlines may be scheduled to fly on a plane operated by Air France. “Your ticket could say Delta, but if you’re flying out of Paris or another city where Air France operates, you might actually be scheduled to take an Air France plane and find yourself grounded,” Mr. Holtz said. “Conversely, if you bought an Air France ticket, you could be flying on a plane operated by one of its partners and not at all be impacted by the strike.” (Travelers can find a list of Air France’s partner airlines on its site.)
What should Air France’s customers do to avoid being affected by the strike, and what are they entitled to if it has already affected them?
For one, the carrier is recommending that its fliers with reservations today postpone their trips or change their tickets at no extra cost. Passengers can reschedule their flights up to Feb. 27 free of charge. They also have the option to receive a voucher for the value of their ticket on Air France or KLM, which will be valid for one year. They can also cancel their flights and receive a full refund. Ticket holders can do so by going to their reservation information on the company’s site or by calling 800-240-260 from France and33 1 57 02 10 58 from abroad.
In addition, the airline has an “AF Connect” service, which informs its customers in 13 languages about any disruptions to their itineraries. To receive notifications from AF Connect, fliers should update their contact details in their reservation file on the company’s site.
But Air France’s passengers also have legal rights, according to Justin T. Green, a lawyer at the New York City law firm Kreindler & Kreindler who specializes in aviation law. “Under European Union law, passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled are entitled to compensation,” he said.
The compensation for delays varies from 250 to 600 euros (about $310 to $740), depending on the length of the delay. For flights that are canceled, passengers are entitled to meals, local transportation and hotel accommodations, if necessary.
Mr. Green said that travelers can file for compensation by filling out a form available on Air France’s site.
“You’re entitled to this compensation unless the airline can prove that the delay was caused by circumstances out of its control such as strikes,” Mr. Green said. “In this instance, however, in my opinion, Air France would have a hard time proving that it couldn’t have avoided this strike.” Air France had no comment regarding Mr. Green’s statement.
If there’s any good news to report about the strike, both Mr. Holtz and Mr. Harteveldt say that it’s likely to be short-lived. “Airline strikes in Europe are common and usually last a day, but the impact from them can last for several days,” Mr. Harteveldt said.