Disruption In Belgium: Strikes Halve Brussels Airlines Flights

Brussels Airlines has saw its departures cut by half on Monday after a 24-hour crew member strike went into force. The industrial action ended at 05:00 AM today, allowing flights to resume normally. The carrier offered refunds or alternate flights to around 25% of its ticketed passengers on Monday due to the disruption. Unions warned the airline of their plans and apologized to affected passengers in a statement.

The cabin crew union has raised concerns regarding working hours and Brussels Airlines not respecting collective labor agreements. Photo: Brussels Airlines

Strike goes on

Despite legal efforts to block a Brussels Airlines’ cabin crew union strike, the industrial action went ahead as planned. Starting 05:00 AM on Monday, hundreds of crew members went on strike, resulting in massive disruptions to operations from the Belgian capital. According to The Brussels Times, the strike’s timing was chosen amid the bustling Christmas travel season, with Monday being the first day of Belgium’s holidays.

While previous estimates expected more cancelations, the strike caused 57 out of 116 flights to be canceled, just shy of 50% of all departures for Monday. According to a statement from the airline to MNA, Brussels Airlines prioritized long-haul services yesterday, causing more intra-European disruptions. Flights to Berlin, Geneva, Goteborg, Lyon, Marseille, Stockholm, Tel Aviv, Valencia, and more were canceled.

In a statement, the unions explained their decision to strike, saying,

“The unions are forced to take such unusual steps for the following deep-rooted reasons: non-respect of concluded CLA’s (note: collective labour agreements), long-standing problems of workload planning and balancing social life and a growing disrespect of employees’ efforts and sacrifices.”

Impact

Despite efforts to mitigate the impact of the stoppage by unions, inevitably, thousands were affected. Around a quarter of passengers flying on Monday were hit by cancelations, amounting to roughly 3,500 flyers. The strike also cost €2.5 million ($2.82 million), a price the airline threatened to charge unions with.

Operations resumed normally this morning, with no notable cancelations. Brussels Airlines, meanwhile, has offered passengers refunds or different routings to their destinations if they were affected. Being a part of the Lufthansa Group means at least part of the impact could be eased out thanks to the network of flights.

No further actions are planned for the next few weeks, giving passengers confidence that they can travel. The unions apologized for the impact and reaffirmed their position,

“We have given a warning well in advance to allow structured itinerary replanning, knowing full well this will reduce the impact of our action…If you are still hindered by our actions, we are sorry, but please be aware we are doing this to become a more competent and respectable carrier, capable of delivering the service you deserve.”

More common

After a devastating two years, airlines are slowly ramping up flights to cater to rebounding traffic. However, this has led to friction with employees, who have taken salary cuts and additional work due to the pandemic, not to mention the safety risk. The last few months have seen strikes by carriers like Alitalia, manufacturers like de Havilland, and ground handlers in Portugal.

As COVID continues to impact traffic, airlines will resist boosting recruitment or reverse pay cuts, especially with a new variant in play. For now, expect more possible disruptions down the line as the industry navigates the third year of the pandemic.

What do you think about the strike at Brussels Airlines? Let us know in the comments.

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