Flights cancelled due to air traffic control strike — what are my rights?

When air traffic control personnel goes on strike, hundreds of thousands of passengers can have their travel plans go down the drain. In these cases, it is important that passengers stay aware of their rights!

Check if you can claim compensation for your disrupted flight!

What you should know

  • Flight cancelled due to an ATC strike? The airline must rebook you on an alternative flight

  • You could still get a refund if your flight was cancelled due to an air traffic control strike

  • Flight delayed over 2 hours due to ATC strike? The airline must provide you with the necessary meals, accommodation and transportation services

Your rights during a strike of air traffic controllers

Air Traffic Control (ATC) strikes can ground your plane faster than you can say "delayed departure." When air traffic control strikes occur, thousands of flights get cancelled, often last-minute, and because of the nature of these strikes, there are very few (if any) rerouting or alternative options available for affected passengers.

If your flight was cancelled or delayed due to an air traffic control strike, read on to learn more about your rights.

Air traffic control strikes: What are they?

Air traffic controllers are absolutely necessary for the safe and effective functioning of airports and flights. Essentially, without them, pilots do not know when to take off, where to land, nor which routes to follow, among other crucial information.

Therefore, when air traffic controllers go on strike, often over labour conditions or salary disputes, the impact on airports and flights of an entire country can be severe.

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Air traffic control strikes: What can passengers do?

When air traffic control strikes threaten your flight itinerary, airlines are obligated to keep you informed. The airline operating your flight is responsible for providing its passengers with updates about any disruptions, including the reasons behind them and estimated delays.

Important: If you do not receive specific information about why your flight was cancelled, delayed, or otherwise disrupted, be sure to ask one of the airport or airline personnel. This information is vital when determining your right to flight compensation!

Flight compensation during an air traffic control strike

Unfortunately, the current European Union regulations determine that airlines see themselves legally obligated to compensate their passengers only when and IF the disruption can be attributed to an oversight on their end. The delay or cancellation must be the airline’s fault directly.

Because airlines do not employ, and therefore cannot be responsible for air traffic controllers, passengers are not entitled to monetary compensation during air traffic control strikes.

Do remember that passengers can claim compensation if it's the airline's employees that are striking (for example, pilots or cabin personnel)!

Flight cancelled due to a strike?

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The right to care during an ATC strike

Although airlines are not legally bound to compensate their passengers during ATC strikes, they must still provide them with the right to care. This includes anything passengers may need while they wait for an alternative flight such as hotel accommodation, meals, and transportation.

If you pay for any of these services out of pocket, be sure to keep the receipts so you can get a refund from the airline afterwards.

Rebooking flights during air traffic control strikes

Airlines often offer their affected passengers alternative options such as rebooking onto different flights (often on a different day), receiving a refund but no flight alternative, or a different form of transportation, such as trains. Don't hesitate to reach out to your airline to discuss the best course of action for your situation.

In the event of flight cancelled due to ATC strike, airlines must provide its passengers with an alternative flight. If they don't (or you choose not to take the alternative flight), you can claim a refund. If you tried this and the airline is uncooperative, submit your claim via and let us handle the hassle for you!

Air traffic control strikes in France

France has a particular history of frequent air traffic control strikes, especially within the last 2 years. The French ATC strikes are often led by unions representing controllers, stemming from various labour disputes and grievances.

Because of France’s geographic location within Europe, their air traffic control strikes can have major impacts for air travel in other states, often including countries like Spain and Germany.

These strikes, although localised, can also cause delays all over Europe. Not sure if your flight was delayed due to an ATC strike? Submit your flight to our Claim Calculator and our flight experts will analyse your case and immediately inform you of your eligibility to compensation!

The right to flight compensation

It is also important for passengers to know that, according to the EU261, when your flight is delayed by over 3 hours you are entitled to flight compensation between £220 and £520. For cancellations, if:

  • Your flight was cancelled less than 14 days before departure, AND,

  • The airline was the party at fault for the cancellation

You are entitled to compensation and potentially a refund as well. More information can be found in the flight cancellation table below:

Cancellation noticeAlternative flightCompensation
Fewer than 7 days in advanceDeparts 1h+ earlier or arrived 2h+ laterYes
7-14 days in advanceDeparts 2h+ earlier or arrived 4h+ laterYes
Fewer than 14 days in advanceNo alternative flight offeredYes + refund

Air passenger rights: how to claim flight compensation

Not sure if you are eligible for flight compensation? Submit your flight info to our free Claim Calculator and our experts will evaluate your specific case in just a few minutes! If you are then eligible for compensation, you can submit the required supporting documentation to and we will deal with all the communication with the airline and the bureaucratic processes involved with getting your compensation! If necessary, we will even take the airline to court and fight for your rights until the very end!

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