Hundreds of flights across Italy were canceled Saturday, forcing travelers at the peak of tourist season to make alternate plans, after air transport unions went ahead with a planned work stoppage two days following a train strike that paralyzed rail service.
Summertime in Italy is often the peak season for transport strikes, stranding commuters and tourists alike as unions press demands for better work contracts and conditions. This year, the strikes are taking their toll amid a tourism boom following two years of pandemic losses.
National carrier ITA said it canceled 133 flights, most of them domestic but a few to European destinations such as Madrid, Amsterdam and Barcelona. Low-cost airlines Ryanair and Vueling canceled dozens of other flights due to the strike from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Striking workers included pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers and airport personnel.
The website of Naples’ airport showed dozens of flights canceled starting at 10 a.m., a similar scene at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport.
”Yeah, it got canceled. It was ITA Airways to Catania,” lamented Stefania Spatola from Philadelphia, who was traveling with 35 members of her family. “All our flights got messed up. It’s horrible. It’s really, really horrible.”
Labor unions Filt Cgil, Uiltrasporti and Ugl Trasporto said they called the strike over “absolutely unsatisfactory” contract disagreements with Malta Air, which operates Ryanair flights. Ryanair posted a note on its website apologizing for cancellations and other disruptions due to the strike that is “beyond our control.”
Filt Cgil spokeswoman Sara di Marco faulted the government for waiting until the last minute to meet with unions to renew work contracts. “We are not happy to create inconvenience to customers because that is not our goal,” she said.
Di Marco added that they wanted to meet with the ministry earlier and not one day before the strike, describing the move as an attempt “to defer or preempt” it.
On Thursday, commuters and tourists were stranded at sweltering train stations across the country as a strike by rail workers crippled service including high-speed trains that are usually guaranteed.
Lizzy Lake arrived at Rome’s airport for a flight back to London only to find she has to stay in the Eternal City for a few more days before she can get out.
“We love Rome, so we’re excited to be able to stay for a few more days, but it’s just frustrating, obviously. I’ve got a little boy and we just want to get home now,” she said. “But we have strikes in England, so we’re used to it.”