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STRIKES

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.

Passengers waiting for buses at a bus station in Rome.
Delays or cancellations are possible when there's a nationwide transport strike in Italy, but how likely are they really? Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

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.

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STRIKES

TRAVEL: Delays expected as Italian airport workers strike on Friday

Passengers travelling to and from Italian airports were warned to expect delays on Friday, January 27th, due to strikes by baggage handlers and other staff, with Milan's Linate set to be worst affected.

TRAVEL: Delays expected as Italian airport workers strike on Friday

Strike action on by staff from airport ground service companies may result in delays and queues at some Italian airports, with ticket desks, check-in and baggage handling likely to be affected.

At the national level, ground support staff will take part in a strike held by several of Italy’s biggest trade unions during the day, while an additional strike by baggage handlers at Milan’s Linate airport is expected to cause further disruption.

“It won’t be so much a problem of cancelled flights, even if sometimes the airlines seize the opportunity to cancel one that would leave half empty, but of delays,” Renzo Canavesi, CUB union leader for the Lombardy region, told La Stampa.

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

At Linate, ground service company Swissport Italia and handling companies Airport Handling and Air Cargo plan to strike on Friday.

Staff from Swissport Italia will hold a 24-hour strike at Linate, while the other two ground operators will strike for four hours (from 10.30am to 2.30pm for Airport Handling; from 9pm to 1am of the next day for Airport Cargo).

Passengers are advised to arrive early for flights and to check the status of their service before leaving for the airport.

Passengers may be entitled to compensation in the event of severe delays or flight cancellations. See our guide for further details.

You can keep up to date with the latest strike news from Italy HERE.

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