It’s a strike! 


When industrial action threatens travel plans, forewarned is forearmed


A collective sigh can almost be heard across the country when news of yet another strike affecting flights or trains is announced. Industrial action is one of the main causes of flight delays and cancellations as strikes by air traffic controllers or ground staff impact the workflow of an airport, and this summer many journeys were disrupted by a wave of strikes across Europe.


Meanwhile, the long-running dispute between the RMT union and Southern Rail over the role of conductors has meant misery for passengers. And it’s not just commuters who have been affected by rail strikes; business travellers have been forced to make alternative ground transportation arrangements if the train they planned to take to the airport couldn’t be relied upon to get them there on time to connect with a flight.


It is possible to overcome these difficulties, advises Samantha Simmons, manager of Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s (CWT) 24 Hour Service Centre at London Heathrow. Unlike unforeseen disruptions, in which travellers can become impacted unexpectedly, those caused by strikes generally come with some warning, presenting an opportunity to make alternative arrangements in advance.


“It’s a matter of being armed with the most relevant and up-to-date information, so that the traveller can make the decision best suited to their individual needs,” says Samantha, whose team at the 24 Hour Service Centre constantly monitors various news sources to identify any potential disruption events.


Each occurrence is evaluated to establish the possible impact, based on historical data, and which mitigating actions should be taken, such as:


  • CWT Traveller Services network identifying and contacting any potentially impacted travellers

  • Assessing the impact on standard business hour operations and consider extended opening hours

  • Activating the UK&I contingency team to reinforce staffing levels of the 24 Hour Service Centre

  • Activating the EMEA contingency teams to replicate these actions at regional level



Clients are kept informed via CWT Alerts and CWT Hot News publications, which include advice for travellers. Meanwhile, CWT’s frontline consultants support anyone caught up in delays or cancellations by seeking alternative options so that travellers can make informed choices.


A recent example is a traveller whose flight was cancelled due to industrial action and needed an alternative flight. A consultant presented a number of options for the traveller to choose from. The traveller’s ticket was subsequently re-issued free of charge, in line with the blanket rebooking policy that CWT has negotiated with a number of carriers. This enables CWT to facilitate free in-house amendments and post flight cancellation.


“The most common challenge in such scenarios is securing availability for an alternative flight,” says Samantha. “CWT consultants are equipped with access to extended content and intuitive tools, which, alongside their knowledge and experience, enables them to guide our travellers through the available options.”


Be prepared

Travellers and travel managers can stay ahead of the game by following our three top tips when industrial action threatens to affect routes.


  1. Stay well informed by referencing CWT publications and reputable news sources.

  2. Consider whether your journey is essential or could be rebooked for a later date. If you decide to continue your trip, allow additional time to account for any potential disruption.

  3. Download the CWT To Go app before travelling to receive the latest updates on your flight status and access additional content, such as the contact number for your CWT servicing branch.