What rights do passengers have when airline staff strike?

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The airline grounded all flights over a two day period causing what was described as the most dramatic industrial action in Australia for a decade.  The government put pressure on an Industrial Tribual to intervene and an order was made ceasing the industrial action and giving the parties 21 days to resolve their dispute.

But what rights to stranded travellers have when an airline goes on strike?  For EU based carriers or flights departing from the EU, where a flight is cancelled or delayed passengers are entitled to a care package including meals, accommodation and access to means of communication.  Fixed compensation under the EU Denied Boarding Regulation is unlikely to apply as strike action will fall under the "extraordinary circumstances" defence.  It is, of course, arguable whether strike action really does lie outside the control of the airline.

Where the flight is with a non-EU based carrier, such as Qantas, or where the flight is departing from a non-EU airport, such as Perth in Australia, passengers will have much less protection.  They will need to rely on the conditions of carriage which tend to vary depending on the type of ticket.  Most airlines will make arrangements for a refund or re-booking for a later date. 

If the flight forms part of a package holiday then the tour operator is obliged to offer a refund of the holiday or a suitable alternative.  Most tour operators will source flights with a different carrier but this can cause disruption to travel plans.

Finally, those who sensibly take out good travel insurance may find cover available for cancellation or delay.  Note, however, that if the policy is taken out after industrial action has been announced, most insurers will not provide cover.

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