Ryanair Faced with Wave of Summer Holiday Strikes by Pilots and Cabin Crew

Passengers board a Ryanair flight at Cork Airport (Photo: DAA)

Ryanair is facing a difficult first few weeks of the European summer holiday period as pilots in Ireland have scheduled a strike on Thursday, July 12. The action follows Ryanair’s decision to recognize unions in December 2017 and is the result of what the Irish pilots’ union IALPA says is “no evidence whatsoever on the part of Ryanair management to engage in meaningful negotiations with a view to reaching agreement on the issues they have presented to the company.”

Ryanair has said it has asked the union to its offices 18 times to no avail.

This week’s pilot strike is the first wave of industrial action to hit the low-cost carrier as the summer holiday season expands across the continent. Cabin crew in Spain, Portugal and Belgium are set for a 48-hour strike on July 25 and July 26 when most Europeans will be expecting to begin their vacations.

Compounding this action will be a 24-hour strike by Italian cabin crew on July 25 which the Financial Times reports will result in 4,800 Ryanair employees being on strike out of a total workforce of 13,000.

The cabin crew are striking over pay concerns and working conditions with limited employment rights as a result of contracts with third-party agencies adopting Irish employment law, not local laws. The Guardian also reports of cabin crew dissatisfaction at disciplinary proceedings against crew who fail to meet sales targets of onboard duty free goods and merchandise, such as perfumes and scratch cards.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation has been collaborating with crew unions, and last week at a summit in Dublin announced the ‘Ryanair Crew Charter,’ a list of demands which was presented to Ryanair and subsequently rejected.

Ryanair has been critical of strike action by European Air Traffic Controllers in recent weeks but has so far not issued an official response on the strikes facing the company this month. There has also been no confirmation on the number of services which will be cancelled by the industrial action or number of passengers who will be affected.

The disruption could continue through the summer as pilots in Germany, including those of recent acquisition Laudamotion, are currently undertaking a ballot for strike action with results expected by the end of July. This follows the significant disruption and cancellation of flights over the winter season due to a scheduling blunder on the company’s part.

While it is too soon to gauge how the scheduling cancellations and industrial disruption will harm Ryanair’s bottom line, one brand consultancy strategist told The Guardian, “What the strikes threaten to do is question the reliability. (Ryanair) are more resilient than others because they’ve never promised anything more than no-frills but deliver on what they promise. But that also leaves them less margin for error, so when you get problems it threatens to affect your brand.”

John Flett

John Flett

John has always had a passion for aviation and through a career with Air New Zealand has gained a strong understanding of aviation operations and the strategic nature of the industry. During his career with the airline, John held multiple leadership roles and was involved in projects such as the introduction of both the 777-200 and -300 type aircraft and the development of the IFE for the 777-300. He was also part of a small team who created and published the internal communications magazines for Air New Zealand’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff balancing a mix of corporate and social content.

John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management and has recently led an undergraduate Aviation Management course for 450 students at a leading London university. John is currently an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.
John Flett