Travellers’ plans have been thrown into chaos due to strikes across Europe against austerity measures that have brought violence and travel cancellations to many cities. Riot police have been seen fighting the violence everywhere, resulting in arrests and injuries.
Millions of people have taken to the streets of major cities across Europe after the European Trade Union Confederation called the first of a ‘Day of Action and Solidarity’ against austerity measures it claims are increasing the unemployment rate. Confederation general secretary Bernadette Segol says that people are reaching their limit in some countries, and government leaders are wrong not to listen to their anger. The trade unions in Europe want to demonstrate that they want to change these policies, she added, as the austerity measures are counter-productive and becoming unbearable.
In the UK, thousands of air passengers have been left with nowhere to go. There were 35 flight cancellations at Heathrow Airport, with British Airways scrapping services to Barcelona and Madrid in Spain and Lisbon in Portugal. The airport says that most travellers seem to be getting the message that some flights will be cancelled, and their terminals are running smoothly. Cancellations are never good news, but they operate about 1,300 flights every day, so 35 cancelled services is comparatively small.
British Airways said that they are doing everything they can to keep the disruption to a minimum. Passengers expecting to fly from Spain can rebook their seat on alternate dates for free, while those whose services have been cancelled can get a refund. They are looking to put bigger planes on these routes to help as many travellers as possible and advise that customers check online for the latest information on flights. The airline added an apology for any inconvenience caused by the strike, which isn’t within their control.
Gatwick Airport has reported about 13 flight cancellations. easyJet has axed some services to Spain and over 20 within mainland Europe. The airline also experienced a few delayed flights – from London to Thessalonaki, Greece for three hours and 40 minutes; from London to Athens for two hours and 30 minutes; and from Manchester to Athens for two hours and ten minutes.
Overall, airlines from everywhere are estimated to have cancelled some 800 flights to and from Spain and Portugal – which amounts to around 40% of the daily average schedule. Most of the 600 axed services in Spain were for Iberia and Vueling Airlines, while TAP (Portugal’s flag airline) cancelled about 45% of its schedule.
There have been many train cancellations as well. Eurostar had to cancel just one Brussels to London services yesterday morning, but the company said that its other services were operating normally with only slight delays. A spokesman said they have had little disruption and advised customers to avoid travelling if they can.
The story is different in Spain and Portugal, however. Only 20% of long-distance trains were expected to operate, while only one-third of commuter services were due to run. In Lisbon, the Metro was completely shut down, and just 10% of all trains were operating under minimum services ordered by a court. In Italy, the transportation ministry said that ferries and trains would be frozen for four hours.