Strikes For Members

Spain's Christmas airport strike: Everything we know so far

The Local Spain
The Local Spain - [email protected]
Spain's Christmas airport strike: Everything we know so far
A total of 29 airports across Spain will be affected by the strike. (Photo by PAU BARRENA / AFP)

Important new details have emerged about the ground services strike set to take place on eight days over Christmas at airports across Spain, from affected airlines and airports to the lack of compensation available to passengers.


Ground service staff working for Iberia are set to walk out at airports across Spain on eight dates during the Christmas and New Year period, threatening to disrupt travel for thousands of people at one of the busiest times of the year, as i's not just Iberia passengers who will be affected.

Spanish UGT and CCOO unions on Wednesday called the industrial action for Iberia's ground care service staff in all Spanish airports where Spain's flagship airline operates.


The dispute has arisen because Iberia, unions say, will not create a "self-handling" service (ground services provided by the company itself) at airports where it recently lost a public tender for services called by Aena, the Spanish airport operator.

Unions fear that the outsourcing of former Iberia workers to new service operators will negatively impact their working conditions and rights. In total, around 8,000 staff employed at the Iberia Airport Services subsidiary would be affected.

On which dates will the strike take place?

Friday December 29th

Saturday December 30th

Sunday December 31st

Monday January 1st

Thursday January 4th

Friday January 5th

Saturday January 6th

Sunday January 7th

Christmas in Spain lasts longer than in other countries as celebrations continue until January 6th - Three Kings Day - the day when Spanish children get the majority of their presents. 

Therefore, even though Iberia’s handler strike will not affect Christmas Eve and Christmas Day flights, the stoppages will fall on key dates in the Spanish Christmas calendar, including those returning from their holidays. 


Is it just Iberia passengers that will be affected?

No. Iberia is part of the IAG group, a conglomerate which includes other popular airlines British Airways, Level, Vueling, Aer Lingus and Air Nostrum.

Iberia Airport Services - the airline's subsidiary that provides ground services, including passenger transfer, loading and baggage collection, and ramp services to planes - usually handles ground services for aforementioned airlines, as well as others that aren’t part of the group. 

Therefore, numerous airlines with flights to and from Spain could suffer the consequences of the stoppage. Iberia Express, the low-cost branch of Iberia, will also be affected.

However, Ryanair, easyJet and Air Europa all manage their own ground service, meaning that passengers on those airlines are unlikely to be affected other than by any possible knock-on effects caused by the Iberia strike. 

At which airports will the strike happen?

A total of 29 airports across Spain will be affected by the strike, including its busiest ones: Madrid-Barajas, Barcelona-El Prat, Palma de Mallorca, Málaga, Alicante, Gran Canaria, Tenerife North and South, Ibiza, Seville, Valencia and Bilbao.

How many flights will be cancelled?

No exact number has yet been disclosed by Iberia but Spain’s Transport Ministry will soon announce the minimum services that the airline has to operate by law.

During a similar strike called in 2019, the Spanish government ensured that between 38 and 65 percent if they were within the mainland, whilst flights to the Canary and Balearic Islands operated at 100 percent normal levels. 

Will affected passengers be able to get a refund?

Not exactly. The affected travellers will not have the right to request financial compensation from their airline because the ground service is in fact the responsibility of Aena.

Therefore, it’s considered that this strike occurs for reasons beyond the control of Iberia or another airline, which exempts it from the responsibility of financially compensating those affected by delays or cancellations. 

However, all affected passengers will be entitled to an alternative flight and if they turn it down, they can request a full refund.

Furthermore, extra expenses caused by the interruption of the flight - such as food, accommodation or those derived from lost luggage - have to be compensated for by the airline according to EU rules. 

How likely is it that the strike will be called off?

The last two major transport strikes announced in Spain have been cancelled, which suggests that there is room for negotiations, even if issues are not fully resolved.

In November, unions threatened to paralyse Spain's Renfe train network over the transfer of Catalan Rodalies services to the regional government as part of a controversial deal between separatists parties and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez Socialist’s in order to gain a majority for his re-election. The strike was ultimately called off.

Crucially, unions also previously called industrial action at all airports in Spain during the long public holiday week in early December, but the stoppage was also cancelled after representatives came to an agreement with the Aseata employers' association, which integrates all companies that provide ground services at airports.


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