UPDATE: Ryanair and ITA cancel over 800 Italian flights on Friday due to strike

Ryanair and easyJet have joined Italian national carrier ITA in cancelling flights on Friday, October 21st, as air traffic control staff go on strike.

More than 200 ITA flights will be cancelled on Friday due to an air traffic controllers strike.
More than 200 ITA flights will be cancelled on Friday due to an air traffic controllers strike. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP.

Low-cost airline Ryanair said it had cancelled over 600 flights to and from Italy on Friday due to a 24-hour strike by air traffic controllers at Italian airports.

The airline stated: “All 110,000 affected Ryanair passengers have been notified of their options.”

“Ryanair sincerely apologizes to all passengers whose travel plans have been unfairly impacted by this strike by the Italian flight controllers.”

Italian national carrier ITA said on Tuesday it had cancelled hundreds of domestic and international flights scheduled for Friday.

ITA also published a list of cancellations showing that international flights to and from Rome and Milan airports would be affected as well as dozens of routes within Italy.

The cancellations are the result of a nationwide 24-hour strike planned this Friday by staff from national air traffic control company ENAV (Ente Nazionale per l’Assistenza al Volo).

Pilots from airline easyJet in Italy will also join planned strike action for four hours on Friday, between 11am and 3pm, according to reports in Italian media on Thursday. Some Vueling staff are also expected to participate.

At the time of writing, Vueling and easyJet had not yet confirmed which flights would be affected at the time of writing, but passengers planning to travel on Friday were advised to contact the airline and check the status of their flight.

EasyJet said in a statement to Travel Weekly on Wednesday that the strike action may affect its services throughout Friday.

“Like most airlines operating to and from Italy, we may see some disruption to our flying programme on this date.”

“We advise customers travelling to, from or within Italy on Friday 21st October to allow additional time to travel to and from the airport and to check the status of their flights.

“Should any flights be cancelled then we will contact customers via email and SMS using the details provided at the time of booking and check in.

Italy’s air traffic authority ENAC guarantees flights will operate as scheduled at certain times of day, even during 24-hour strikes.

ENAC said scheduled flights will go ahead between the hours of 7am-10am and 6pm-9pm.

People with cancelled flights and customers whose flight ends up being delayed by more than five hours will be able to request a refund until October 28th.

The strike was called by Italian unions Filt-Cgil, Filt-Cisl and Uiltrasporti in an ongoing dispute over working arrangements and contracts and is expected to hit airports across Italy.

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Should you travel in Italy when there’s a strike on?

Transport strikes are a frequent occurrence in Italy, but how disruptive are they usually and what else should you consider if you’re planning to travel? Here’s what you need to know.

Should you travel in Italy when there’s a strike on?

Let’s be honest: strikes in Italy are hardly unusual. 

If you’re wondering whether the news about upcoming transport strikes means you should rethink your travel plans, here are some things to bear in mind.

Travel disruption

Strikes are of course intended to cause disruption, and in that they’re often pretty effective (Italian workers have had enough practice, after all).

So there is often a possibility that your plane, train, bus or ferry might be delayed or cancelled.

But just because there is a transport strike in the news, don’t assume that everything will be cancelled.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s transport strikes will impact travel on Friday

Unions often target transport services because these are highly visible, and these are also the type of strikes that tend to get international media coverage, because they affect visitors to Italy.

But strikes in Italy vary hugely in how much disruption they cause, to which services, and where.

It also depends on which unions are involved – the Italian union landscape is pretty complex and divides along political lines so that, for example, train drivers at a single company could be represented by any one of several different unions.

For this reason, strikes only really cause widespread disruption when all or most of the unions agree to strike on the same day. 

Otherwise you’re likely to see some services cancelled but others running as normal. 

If this is the case you will probably be able to get to your destination, it might just take a little more time with unusually crowded trains/buses.

If you have a pre-booked ticket for a cancelled service, you can usually take the next one at no extra charge.

If you’re travelling by plane things are obviously less flexible, and the best thing to do is check with your airline.

In many recent cases, disruption and delays to flights have been caused not by Italian airline staff striking, but by baggage handlers or air traffic control going on strike.

When this happens, again it does not necessarily involve every airport in Italy, or every member of staff at an airport, so it rarely causes as much chaos as you might expect.

And a minimum level of ‘essential’ service is always guaranteed at certain times of day when there’s a strike on.

Check strike timetables

Essential workers such as transport workers are required to give notice of their intention to strike, which means that some operators create ‘strike timetables’ of the services that will be running, or sometimes lists of cancelled flights, which are usually available at least 24 hours in advance. 

You can use these to see what is running and whether it’s worth travelling or not.

With strikes being so heavily regulated in Italy, the transport ministry also helpfully compiles an official strike calendar, which you can find here.

While the official list of strikes sometimes looks long at first glance, you’ll notice that many of these events affect only one small part of the country, or that only members of one union are participating.

Countless small, localised strikes happen in Italy every year, and most of them barely get any media coverage at home, never mind internationally. 

A nationwide, 24-hour transport strike is more likely to cause problems for passengers – but again, it all depends where you’re going, at what time, and how.

Unions always claim in advance that their protest will bring the country to a complete standstill. This is generally just a rhetorical flourish that you can probably ignore – check the strike timetables for the full picture. 

You can also check out The Local’s strike section HERE for the latest news on strikes and which services will be affected.