Flight chaos as strikes hit German and Spanish airports

Hundreds of flights have been cancelled at two major German airports due to a short-notice strike by ground staff.

Members of the Verdi and Komba trades unions working in a wide range of roles at Cologne and Dusseldorf have walked out in a dispute over pay. The strikers include airport firefighters.

At Dusseldorf around 200 arrivals and departures have been cancelled, including at least 16 British Airways flights linking the German airport with London and eight Eurowings services to and from Heathrow.

Dusseldorf is normally the fourth-busiest in Germany, after Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin.

Eurowings has also cancelled its links between Cologne and Heathrow, with more than 100 flights affected at the airport serving both Cologne and Bonn.

The airline, which is a subsidiary of Lufthansa, said: “Massive disruptions to flight operations and a significant number of flight cancellations are to be expected.

“Eurowings expects that flight operations will be back to normal as early as Tuesday.”

Diversions are also under way, with a Ryanair flight from London Stansted to Cologne touching down at Weeze airport near the Dutch border.

Under European air passengers’ rights rules, travellers whose flights are cancelled are entitled to be flown – or travel by train – to their final destination as soon as possible.

Ground staff working for Swissport Handling at 17 airports in Spain, including Barcelona, Madrid, Alicante, Malaga and Lanzarote, have begun a series of strikes in a dispute over pay and working conditions.

Walk-outs are planned for every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday until 13 April.

The leading budget airlines from the UK – easyJet, Jet2 and Ryanair – are not involved. But Vueling and passengers on other carriers could be affected.

A spokesperson for Swissport said: “A comprehensive contingency plan is in place to limit disruptions to our airline customers and passengers travelling via Spanish airports.

“We remain fully committed to reaching an agreement with union representatives and our staff, that will be acceptable to our colleagues while also preserving the stability and health of the company and offering attractive jobs in the Spanish aviation sector.”

So far the impact has been minimal, with only flights between Barcelona and Lisbon on TAP Portugal identified as cancelled by The Independent.

Under Spanish labour law, trade unions must provide minimum service levels.

Across Europe, however, a range of other walk-outs are set to disrupt travel plans.

In France, another general strike in protest against President Macron’s planned pension reforms will take place on Tuesday 7 March. There is likely to be significant disruption to rail and public transport services in France, with air-traffic control also potentially affected.

Eurostar, whose trains from London to Paris could be affected, said: “We’re currently working out the impact on our timetables.”

On Wednesday 15 March, train driver members of the Aslef union working for Transport for London are expected to walk out in a bid to bring the Underground in the capital to a halt.

On the same day at Pisa airport in Italy, a four-hour walk-out planned for 10am-2pm local time for union members working as ground staff.

The next round of national rail strikes in the UK by members of the RMT union begins on Thursday 16 March, with further disruption on Saturday 18 March, Thursday 30 March and Saturday 1 April.

Only the first of those days involves Network Rail staff, which is likely to cause severe disruption to services in Scotland and Wales as well as having some effect on Eurostar operations.

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