Once again, the Brits have been screwed by the French! The 6 day French air traffic controllers strike, which started yesterday is causing untold misery to millions - not only for the holiday makers but also the travel industry in general. Airports across the UK, as well as here in Alicante resemble a warzone, with passengers lying wherever they can find a space. It is worse for those already on the plane - yesterday some passengers were stranded for 3 hours on the tarmac, not an enviable situation for families with children. Flights are being delayed and cancelled with passengers left in the dark thanks to the selfish actions of so few - merci beaucoup!
For those booked on packages, there is at least some assurance that you will be looked after transfer and accommodation wise - a worry if you are stuck in a foreign country. However, thousands book independantly in the hope of either saving some money or because the packages offered do not suit their requirements. This is the time that travel insurance is essential - many just think of the emergency health insurance aspect incase of an accident but the Icelandic Volcanic ash cloud in 2010 proved why travel insurance is necessary after it left miilions of travellers stranded across Europe.
Knock on effect
As well as the passengers and airlines, all holiday related businesses are suffering through no fault of their own thanks to the French air traffic controllers. They are virtually holding the travel industry to ransom as the majority of European destinations need to fly through French airspace. Most airlines are reporting severe disruption to services and last night French airspace was operating at minimum capacity - not great news if you are due to fly between now and Sunday, the last official day of the strike. However, the knock on effect will potentially take days to clear, so it may be midweek before all flights are back and running normally.
Untold logistical nightmare
I spoke to Jacqui Birch this morning, the owner of ABAS Costa Blanca SL, probably the biggest airport shuttle transfer company here on the Costa Blanca as they are the handing agents for many of the major players including A2B, Resort Hoppa and Holiday Taxi to name a few. She is also the owner of Alicante Private Transfers so can speak first hand of the untold logistical nightmare that this is causing to her company. The emergency phone has been ringing around the clock, with enquiries coming in at 3am to ask whether a particular flight has been delayed! They have access to exactly the same information as the passengers and cannot advise on what you should do - only the airline can tell you that information. However, she and her team of staff try and be as helpful as possible, knowing that the client at the end of the line is normally somewhat distressed and angry and wanting to take it out on someone!
Everyone is frustrated
The airport reps and drivers are generally the ones which take the brunt of abuse at the airport, but they try and do whatever they can to help the customers, despite it being totally out of their control - please bear this in mind when about to launch into a tirade of abuse! Jacqui understands the frustration you are facing, but imagine what she is up against, trying to reschedule coach pick up and drop offs! With drivers restricted to the number of hours which they can legally work it is a total logistical nightmare and costs her "a lot" of money. If you are aware that your flight is delayed please call the contact number if you are not going to be on the transfer otherwise the driver will be waiting, along with a coach full of disgruntled passengers.
For those customers who have booked with Alicante Private Transfers, Jacqui is offereing FREE ammendments or cancellations to any bookings - even within the specified 24 hour period. Many are repeat clients and they are doing all they can to try and ease the stress that this situation has caused. But she did reiterate that no matter who you have booked with then to please notify the company! If not it will be classified as a "no show" and you will need to rebook and pay a second time if you want the service again - plus it causes further delays. Obviously if you arrive at the airport to find you flight cancelled then that is more difficult as coach drivers can only take passengers on a pre-printed list! Good luck to those travelling over the next few days!