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Europe Strikes Continue to Plague Air Travelers

Labor unrest will likely continue to plague travelers to Europe this summer. Right now, the biggest problem is a general strike in Spain that has caused lots of cancellations and delays, but that may be over by the time you read this.

Now, the newest looming threat is a possible strike of baggage handlers at London's Stansted airport over the Easter weekend. Meanwhile, German and Greek workers continue to be restive, and Iberia pilots have not said anything about backing away from their planned strikes on Mondays and Fridays from April 9 through July 20. 

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All in all, 2012 is shaping up to be a summer of strikes around Europe. Some strikes, like most in the U.S., are disagreements over wages and working conditions. Other strikes are political, protesting government policies. And given the conflicting economic pressures—airline fuel cost pressures, government austerity programs, and ongoing labor demands—neither problem is likely to ease any time soon.

In these situations, airlines usually try to give priority to long-haul international flights. If the carriers have to cut down on total number of flights, they first cut the short-haul routes. And when they do cancel, they're usually generous about re-accommodating affected travelers without charging them anything extra.

But in view of today's high load factors, re-accommodation doesn't help airlines avoid serious disruption. If you're planning a trip to Europe this spring or summer, keep a close watch on the news and your airline's website for current information. Also, as a precaution, consider using trains or rental cars rather than local flights for internal transportation.

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