Ryanair cancels 400 flights across Europe
Airline Ryanair has cancelled almost 400 flights due to an “historic” pilot strike, with knock-on effects expected to affect passengers across Europe including France.
Ryanair confirmed the cancellations and strike on Friday, calling it “regrettable and unjustified”, as pilots based in Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Ireland and the Netherlands walked out in a dispute over working conditions and pay.
Pilots in France have not joined the strike, and most of the flights will directly affect passengers in Germany (accounting for around 42,000 of the 55,000 passengers expected to be affected).
Yet, knock-on effects are likely across the rest of Europe due to the disruption, and planes not being in the right place.
The airline has said that 85% of their flights will take off, “carrying almost 400,000 customers across Europe”.
In its update, Ryanair said: “[We] took every step to minimise the disruption and we notified our customers as early as possible advising them of their free move, refund, or reroute options. The majority of customers affected have already been re-accommodated on another Ryanair flight.
“We want to apologise to customers affected by this unnecessary disruption and we ask the striking unions to continue negotiations instead of calling anymore unjustified strikes [sic].”
News source France Info dubbed the strike “historic”, specifying that it is the biggest walkout in the history of Ryanair.
Anyone whose flight is expected to be disrupted will receive an email or SMS text advising them of the news, Ryanair said, with the status of individual flights able to be checked on its website.
Under EU rules, Ryanair should be forced to offer passsengers a refund, an alternative flight, or a flight with another airline; along with compensation for the trouble.
However, Ryanair is reportedly refusing to refund passengers for costs outside of their original ticket price, saying that the strike amounts to "exceptional, unavoidable circumstances".
A statement from CEO Michael O'Leary said: "Ryanair fully complies with all EU261 legislation, however as these flight cancellations were caused by extraordinary circumstances, no compensation is due.
"Under EU261 legislation, no compensation is payable when the union is acting unreasonably and totally beyond the airline’s control."
This is not the first Ryanair strike in recent months; in July, cabin staff in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Belgium walked out for similar reasons, causing 600 flights to be cancelled.
Unrest among pilots and staff since 2017 has forced the Ryanair management to acknowledge workers’ unions for the first time - something it had previously refused to do.
Ryanair is expected to see earnings of over €1.25 billion in 2018, and continues to say it has “far lower costs per passenger than its competitors”.
Yet, the head of German union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC), Martin Locher, blamed Ryanair for the strike, saying that “it has ruled out any rise in spending [and] has given no indication to its margins of manoeuvre to find a solution”.
The unions are demanding a raise in salaries, unions say, alongside the issuing of more secure working contracts that are valid in each pilot’s country of residence (which they claim does not always happen).
Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair marketing director, called the strike “useless”, and said that Ryanair pilots are paid better than their counterparts at competitor airlines Easyjet or Norwegian.
He said: “Salaries can reach €190,000 per year, and are on average €150,000. They all received a 20% pay rise this year.”
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