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TRAVEL NEWS

Strike at Spain’s Iberia Express grounds flights

Iberia Express, the low-cost arm of Spain's national carrier, cancelled eight domestic flights Sunday as cabin crew launched a 10-day strike for higher wages amid soaring inflation.

Strike at Spain's Iberia Express grounds flights
Photo: John MACDOUGALL/AFP

The walkout, which will run from August 28 to September 6, is expected to involve a total of 92 cancellations affecting more than 17,000 passengers, a spokeswoman for the USO union said.

The stoppage comes as Spain’s airline sector struggles with rolling strikes by staff at budget rivals EasyJet and Ryanair.

By midday (1000 GMT), eight flights had been cancelled but there were no delays, a USO statement said, indicating 1,500 passengers had been affected.

Iberia Express confirmed eight “preventative cancellations”, saying in a statement it had arranged alternative flights or transport for 84 percent of affected passengers, with the rest opting for a refund or vouchers.

On Friday, the airline had announced it would cancel 24 domestic flights during the first three days of the walkout, affecting some 3,000 passengers.

It did not immediately say how many more flights would be axed beyond those initial dates.

USO and the SITCPLA union are calling for a salary increase to compensate for inflation, which in July hit 10.8 percent.

Iberia Express connects Madrid with about 40 cities across Europe. Spain’s national carrier Iberia is owned by IAG, which also owns British Airways and Ireland’s Aer Lingus.

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TRAIN TRAVEL

Spain changes conditions for free train travel

Spain's state train operator Renfe has tweaked the terms and conditions for its free train travel offer in order to avoid 'ghost reservations'. Here's everything you need to know.

Spain changes conditions for free train travel

Renfe has changed the terms and conditions of reservations on its free travel offer for regional Media Distancia services, valid until the end of 2022, in order to avoid ‘ghost reservations.’ 

Announced by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez during the ‘State of the Nation’ debate in the Spanish Congress in August, the free multi-journey ticket scheme is an offer on some trains operated by the state-owned train network, Renfe, including Cercanías, Rodalies (Catalonia), and Media Distancia (local and medium-distance journeys).

READ MORE: All you need to know about Spain’s plan for free train tickets

READ MORE: GUIDE: How to get free train tickets in Spain

But some passengers have been abusing the offer, it seems, by block booking tickets and never using them. In response, Renfe have tweaked their terms for taking up the offer on Media Distancia journeys.

Unlike on the Cercanías and Rodalies routes, which are also included in the free travel offer, on Media Distancia routes it is possible to reserve a seat, and some travellers have been making more than one reservation on the same route for different times through the day or week in order to secure a place, and then choosing the most convenient departure.

As a result, many services were fully booked with ‘ghost reservations’ days before their departure and preventing passengers who needed to buy a ticket from being able to do so.

This loophole was particularly widespread on regional routes in Galicia and Castilla-La Mancha, and from now on, Media Distancia customers can only buy tickets for a maximum of four daily trips (two return journeys) on Media Distancia trains, and can only buy the return journey when the initial journey has been made.

READ MORE: TRAVEL: Tourists in Spain will also be eligible for free train tickets

“It is a question of guaranteeing the good use of the free passes for recurrent travelers and that as many people as possible can benefit,” Renfe sources said in the Spanish media.

READ ALSO: How much can you save on public transport in Spain with the new state discount?

Renfe’s free train travel offer came into force on September 1st and will end at the end of the year, on December 31st. In order to obtain the offer, travelers must pay a €20 deposit that is returned at the end of the year if at least 16 trips have been made during the offer period.

According to Spanish newspaper El País, as of Monday September 12th, Renfe had already issued over 1 million free passes for Cercanías and Media Distancia trains. 

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