Copenhagen Airport baggage strikes: Passengers may have right to compensation

Passengers affected by strikes conducted by baggage staff at Copenhagen Airport may be able to claim compensation for disrupted services, a consumers’ interest organisation has said.

Passengers with baggage at Copenhagen Airport
Passengers with baggage at Copenhagen Airport on February 14th 2022. Airline customers who face delays due to ongoing strikes by baggage handlers may be entitled to compensation, according to a consumer interest group. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Baggage staff at Copenhagen Airport have been engaged in a wildcat strike – meaning a strike that is not endorsed by the workers’ trade union and in breach of their collective bargaining agreement – since Saturday morning.

Those strikes continued on Monday despite the Danish labour court, Arbejdsretten, ordering the baggage handlers to resume working and ruling fines can be issued to workers who continue the walkout, broadcaster DR reported.

Dissatisfaction with wage and working conditions has been reported to be the reason for the wildcat strikes.

READ ALSO: Delays at Copenhagen Airport as baggage staff continue wildcat strikes

The Danish Consumer Council (Forbrugerrådet Tænk) said on Monday that some airline customers may be able to claim compensation for the impact on travel caused by the strikes.

“When a flight has been delayed by more than three to four hours – depending on the length of the journey – you have the right to have your flight rearranged and if you are not happy with the rearranged flight, you can get your money back,” the organisation’s senior consultant Vagn Jelsøe told Ritzau.

“Additionally, in some cases you may have the right to further compensation to an amount corresponding to the length of the journey. That can be between 250 and 600 euros,” he said.

However, the European compensation rules have some exceptions, including for delays that occurs due to “unusual circumstances” which can include strikes.

But that does not necessarily mean SAS, which owns the baggage handling company, SAS Ground Handling (SGH), will be exempt from paying compensation in the current situation.

“There are actually different court decisions relating to strikes that point in different directions,” Jelsøe said.

“How a court would end up ruling in this case, I dare not say,” he said.

The consumer rights consultant said that passengers interested in claiming compensation should begin by contacting SAS. If a claim with SAS is rejected, they can contact the Danish Civil Aviation and Railway Authority (Trafikstyrelsen).

The unsanctioned strikes could also mean luggage does not arrive on time in addition to delayed flight departures.

“If you do not have your baggage forwarded to you within a reasonable amount of time, you also have the right to claim reasonable compensation,” Jelsøe said.

According to SAS’ website, passengers whose baggage is delayed by more than 24 hours can claim compensation of around 560 kroner per day to purchase essential items.

The baggage handlers are employed by the SAS Ground Handling (SGH) company, which manages baggage for several airlines and not only SAS.

Other airlines which use the company at Copenhagen Airport include Aegean, Air France, KLM and Lufthansa.

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Copenhagen Airport passengers warned of more queues on holiday weekends

Long queues were reported at Copenhagen Airport during last week’s extended public holiday weekend and similar issues are likely during two more upcoming holidays.

Copenhagen Airport passengers warned of more queues on holiday weekends

Staff shortages at security checks, caused by a lengthy rehiring process following the Covid-19 crisis, have been blamed for crowds and long queues at Copenhagen Airport during peak times this spring.

Long waiting times at security were reported both Thursday and Sunday at Copenhagen Airport, resulting in a significant number of passengers missing flights, broadcaster DR writes.

The airport’s commercial director Peter Krogsgaard told DR that Copenhagen is not alone in experiencing problems with queues.

“Copenhagen Airport and all airports in Europe have had a lot to do in re-hiring and training many employees after corona,” Krogsgaard said.

“We are therefore seeing that, now passengers are coming back and fortunately want to travel again, we are under a bit of pressure to begin with,” he said.

This means that passengers planning to travel during two more upcoming peak times – the public holidays on Ascension Day (Thursday May 26th) and Pentecost (Monday June 6th) – should brace themselves for lengthy queues at the airport.

Up to 70,000 passengers are expected during the first of the two public holidays, according to Copenhagen Airport.

“We expect to be very busy and are therefore advising all passengers travelling within Europe to arrive two hours before their flight. If you are going to outside of Europe, to the Unites States or Asia, you should come three hours before,” Krogsgaard told DR.

Passengers have few options should they miss flights due to long waits at security, a consumer rights consultant said to DR.

“You are in a very bad situation if you get to the airport too late in relation to the waiting times there actually are at security, because it’s your own responsibility to get to the airport in time to make the flight,” Vagn Jelsøe, senior consultant with the Danish Consumer Council (Forbrugerrådet Tænk), said to DR.

The airport expects to be fully staffed by the beginning of June, DR reports.

“Since January, we’ve done nothing other than hire a lot of new people and they must be trained and educated, and it takes some time for them to get to the security lanes,” Krogsgaard also said.

Airline SAS last week said it would cancel around 4,000 flights over the summer. The decision was made due to staff shortages combined with delayed deliveries of new aeroplanes, SAS said.