Tips for avoiding transportation disruptions

Transportation strikes are meant to cause significant disruption and inconvenience as part of bargaining tactics. Unfortunately, these tactics often affect business travellers and tourists as well as local commuters. Whether they happen to airlines, subways, taxis or buses, travellers have been left stranded and disappointed in their wake. The good news is that a little preparation and some planning can help you avoid or minimize any disruption to your plans.

The news is full of examples of travellers being affected by job actions. A Greyhound strike here in Canada impacted travellers’ holiday plans this past Victoria Day weekend. Airline strikes loomed over Israel and New Zealand pending negotiations, and thousands of flights in Europe were cancelled due to flight attendant and air traffic controller strikes in Italy.

How can you prevent getting caught up in one of these strikes? Preparation is the key. Take Italy as an example. This tourist hot-spot is infamous for its strikes. But don’t let that discourage you – the frequency of strikes has lead to better communication and preparation. For example, it’s the law that strikes must be announced in advance to give adequate warning. They are often of short duration, lasting anywhere from two hours to a full day.

Rather than suppressing negative news about strikes, tourist websites such as What’s on in Rome and alert travellers to potential disruptions, allowing them to adjust their plans. These sites note that strikes are so common they are a way of life and people simply “make do” when they happen. If you’re looking for detailed advice, and you speak a little Italian, the Commissione di Garanzia (the official strike authority) has a searchable database of strike information.

Luckily, strikes aren’t as common in most countries, but information can be hard to find. Most government travel advice will warn you about the general possibility, but the specifics often go unspoken. If you’re travelling to a strike-prone area, here are a few things you can do to minimize unexpected problems:

• Find out before you go: Keeping up with local news in the weeks before your trip can alert you to any potential issues. A word of caution: you might only receive a day or two’s notice.

• Insure your travels: Find out if your travel insurance policy covers any last minute changes or cancellations.

• Check with your travel provider: In some cases air or train passengers can be rebooked with other providers, and strikes may not affect pre-packaged tours at all. If you have questions or anticipate a problem, call to confirm your details.

• Keep your ears open: Sometimes strikes can happen with little or no warning, but they can end just as quickly. Find a local media source, ask a local tourism office or talk to the locals about what’s going on. A one-day strike has different consequences than an “indefinite” strike.

• Have a back-up plan: Some extra snacks, books, games and other amusements can help pass the time if you’re forced to wait for a few hours. Arranging for a hotel or other accommodations ahead of time can help alleviate the stress of not knowing where you’ll spend the night.

• Take advantage of the opportunity: If you’re stuck, take advantage of the chance to see or do something that you didn’t fit into your original itinerary. Check out that restaurant you missed, take your camera on a long stroll or do some shopping. Take the time to experience the local culture.

• Hold on to the evidence: Keep any cancelled tickets and receipts so can you receive suitable compensation such as a refund.

The best advice? If possible, avoid the situation altogether. This means steering clear of any related demonstrations or picket lines. Most government travel advice follows the same theme regardless of location: avoid rallies and demonstrations because even peaceful actions can lead to violent confrontations. These warnings may sound extreme, but staying clear of trouble avoids unnecessary inconvenience and harm. In May, delays at an Argentina railway resulted in riots, and a soldiers’ dispute over wages in Guinea prompted travel warnings when shots were fired.

Overall, tourism is a vital industry and it is in everyone’s best interests to avert strike actions or end them quickly. Staying informed and keeping a positive attitude can go a long way to ensuring your vacation stays on track.

Commissione di Garanzia
Greyhound dispute curtails travel plans (CBC News)
Italy air strike hits travellers (BBC News)
What’s on in Rome