Airports throughout Europe are bracing themselves for even further disruptions this weekend after the news that Ryanair have cancelled a further 250 flights. The additional cancellations brings Ryanair’s total number of grounded flights on Friday to nearly 400 – that’s one sixth of their total flights originally scheduled for Friday.
The initial 150 flights were cancelled ahead of pilot strikes in Ireland, Belgium and Sweden over a dispute on pay and conditions. German pilots intensified the situation on Wednesday when they announced that they were also joining the industrial action. It’s expected that 72,000 passengers will be affected by the overall cancellations, though this figure could rise as Dutch pilots continue to consider their position.
The Dutch union, VNV is only required to provide 12 hours notice if they decide to strike. Union officials have called for Dutch employment law to be applied for ‘no more bogus self-employment’ and improved sick pay and pensions. A VNV representative said that Ryanair need a ‘wake up call’ and that a strike ‘might be the only solution.’
Ryanair need a ‘wake up call’
Reports indicate that 96% of the pilots employed in Germany voted in favour of the strike. Martin Locher, President of Vereinigung Cockpit (the union that represent the pilots) said, “We demand improvements in pay and working conditions” and “improvements are inconceivable without an increase in personnel cockpit costs. During negotiations Ryanair categorically ruled out any such increases. At the same time, Ryanair has not shown any interest to find solutions. It is only Ryanair which is responsible for the escalation which has now taken place.”
Ryanair swiftly responded to the situation stating that the strike was ‘unnecessary’ and that their pilots in Germany enjoy ‘excellent working conditions’ and sufficient pay. Chief Marketing Officer, Kenny Jacobs claimed that pilots are paid ‘up to €190,000 per year with additional benefits’ and that they had already received a 20% pay increase at the start of this year.
Jacobs furthermore added that he requested the Vereinigung Cockpit to provide seven days notice for any strike action, a plight that was ignored, resulting in Ryanair and their customers having just 2 days notice in which to make alternative arrangements.
In Ryanair’s earnings statement, the airline states, ‘We expect further strikes over the peak summer period as we are not prepared to concede to unreasonable demands that will compromise either our low fares or our highly efficient model.’
It continues, ’If these unnecessary strikes continue to damage customer confidence and [prices] in certain country markets then we will have to review our winter schedule, which may lead to fleet reductions at disrupted bases and job losses.’
This weekend’s strikes are just the latest blow to the low-fare airline, following a rise in fuel costs and strikes by Air Traffic Control which caused ‘widespread damage’ earlier in the year and contributed to over 2,500 cancelled flights in the first quarter. A combination of these, coupled with rising wages have resulted in profits dropping by 20% in the first quarter.