Tough time for visiting Spain and Portugal/Expect delays Heathrow this summer?
It's a tough time for visiting Spain and Portugal this week, and possibly for a while. Iberia pilots are disrupting flights with regular strikes, and now Portuguese air traffic controllers apparently have launched regular job actions of their own.
It sounds like, well, not quite chaos but certainly an iffy situation for travellers to southwestern Europe.
"Flights to Spain and Portugal will be disrupted for the next few days due to industrial action. Iberia has been forced to cancel a large number of flights tomorrow, including services between Heathrow and Madrid (see photo), due to a decision by pilots union SEPLA to strike every Friday and Monday until July 20."
(July 20? That's a long time, folks; be prepared).
"The strikes started on Monday, when Iberia was forced to ground 150 flights. The series of 30, one-day walk-outs is in protest against Iberia parent IAG's decision to launch lowcost carrier Iberia Express. Iberia partner British Airways is giving passengers booked to fly to Spain on any of these dates the option to cancel or switch to alternative flights free of charge."
As if that isn't bad enough, now comes word of job actions by Portuguese air traffic controllers.
"A two-hour strike by air traffic controllers in Portugal this morning, which ended at 9:00hrs today, will be repeated again tomorrow (Friday) from 7:00hrs and again on April 19, 20 and 26. EasyJet said that as a result it had cancelled a number of flights tomorrow, including its early morning service between Gatwick and Faro."
Economic troubles might be making Spain and Portugal a little bit cheaper than usual. And Portugal is almost always one of the cheaper spots to visit in Europe. But these job actions might be enough to cause folks to turn to a different part of Europe for a summer holiday. Yeah, Greece won't be having any strikes this summer, will they? And there's hardly ever any chance of job actions in Italy, right?
Well, you could try England this summer. It's the Queen's Jubilee, after all, and then there are the Summer Olympic Games starting July 27. Exciting, sure, but not necessarily conducive to good travel.
Associated Press reports that British lawmakers have questioned Heathrow Airport's ability "to cope with an influx of passengers during the London Olympics this summer, warning that long lines at immigration could force planes to sit on runways or even circle Europe's busiest airport."
Hey, it might be a great sightseeing option. Be sure to ask for a window seat if you plan to fly into Heathrow this summer!
CARNIVAL AND COSTA CRUISE UPDATE
The Wall Street Journal says Carnival Cruise line officials are reporting a recovery from a winter of woe.
There were a series of incidents in the winter and early spring of this year, including the grounding of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy. Apparently Costa cruise bookings are still down (how much isn't clear) but things apparently are better than they were in the first six-weeks after the Concordia disaster, when bookings were off 75 to 80 per cent. (Geez, those ships must've been weird to travel on).
A Carnival spokesman said Costa pricing was down by a double-digit percentage in the last five weeks but that pricing has recovered somewhat.
Carnival Chief Operating Office Howard S. Frank said Carnival bookings rose three per cent in the five weeks to April 1, exluding Costa, after falling nine per cent in the month and-a-half after the Concordia wreck.
Frank said that nine per cent drop forced the company to reduce prices. But Carnival officials have suggested that anyone "holding out for deeper-than-normal discounts may be disappointed."
Of course, they can't very well say, "Hey, we're going to drop prices even more so don't book your tickets now." I suspect cruise pricing will stay reasonably soft through the summer. Not huge discount soft, perhaps, but reasonable. Things are improving in the U.S. and Canadian economies, it seems, but times are quite tough in many parts of Europe and I can't see a huge increase in demand for Mediterranean cruises right now. So I suspect folks looking for good deals will continue to find them in the coming weeks.