Pilots Are Starting to Strike — Here's What to Expect

Airline company employees are putting their foot down, and strikes have unfolded. What happens when pilots go on strike? Let's get into it.


May 12 2023, Updated 5:21 p.m. ET

Strikes are nothing new when it comes to the underpaid and overworked finally putting their foot down and realizing their worth. It has happened across most industries, and there has been an increase in strikes now that the rate of pay for some doesn't equate to livable wages. More professionals are realizing that their earnings can't support them as inflation and other price-gouging methods are straining their bank accounts and posing greater harm to their livelihoods.

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The WGA Strike and the pilot strike have been making the most noise among the ongoing strikes.The employees of these industries view their working conditions and compensation as unfit and are finally speaking out. However, there are many questions for those planning a trip or who have an upcoming flight.

So what happens when pilots go on strike? Staying informed about your options is the fastest way to identify a solution if you're left re-evaluating your plans due to the ongoing protests from pilots across major airline companies.

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What happens when pilots go on strike?

Unfortunately, not everyone has the qualifications, aviation degrees, or skills to step into the cockpit if a pilot is unable to fly. Per Passenger Friends, European travelers can earn up to €600 per person in compensation. To get this, the airline must confirm the strike in writing. MyFlyRight says something similar.

MyFlyRight claims "passengers can claim flight compensation in cases of planned airline personnel strikes and wildcat strikes, which are both not considered an extraordinary circumstance (ECJ, C-28/20 from 23.3.2021)." It's also outlined that airlines must offer some form of compensation to those traveling or delayed due to a strike. Airlines are also expected to provide meals, refreshments, accommodations, and airport transportation when the flight delay is over two hours long.

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If pilots are engaged in a strike, your flight may be canceled, but the good news is that you might be entitled to financial compensation. You can also request a refund if your flight faces cancellations due to the ongoing protest. There are ways to rebook your accommodations through alternative airlines, and it's recommended to check ahead on airline websites to see if an ongoing strike may impact your flight.

Why do pilots go on strike?

Pilots from American Airlines have formally announced that they're organizing a strike. The strike will happen if they can't reach an agreement with new management. "We will strike if necessary to secure the industry-leading contract that our pilots have earned and deserve — a contract that will position American Airlines for success," Allied Pilots Association president, Captain Ed Sicher said. When pilots go on strike, the union negotiations between pilots and the airline they represent would be broken.

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USA Today reports that the National Mediation Board would have to interfere with the strike, which could either lead to arbitration or a 30-day cooldown period that has the means of de-escalating the situation before it can inflame any further. If pilots do enter this period, President Joe Biden would rally the Presidential Emergency Board to avoid a pilot strike from occurring. If Biden doesn't take this course of action, pilots could stop flying for American.

While it's known that airline employees and pilots are engaging in picket lines, this isn't the same thing as a strike. A strike usually follows a picket line if requests aren't met. There's still room for negotiations before unions escalate measures of seeing their demands being met. In the meantime, monitoring the ongoing developments regarding the pilot picket and potential strike is advised.

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