Ryanair Pilots In Five Countries Go On Strike, Hundreds Of Flights Cancelled

Filed Under: Other Airlines

I’ve written before about the proposition of flying Ryanair, Europe’s most hates airline, and how for me, it works. But I have been exceedingly lucky with my Ryanair flights, of which I’ve probably taken around 30. The biggest issue I’ve ever had has been a 45 minute delay.

I even flew Ryanair out of London Stansted on Good Friday this year, only a few hours before a bus caught fire outside the terminal, closing the airport and cancelling plenty of flights.

I know that if my flight is canceled with Ryanair I have certain rights under EU261 regulations to ensure I can obtain a refund or otherwise to get my destination, and compensation may be due in certain circumstances, but I don’t expect much immediate assistance from Ryanair themselves to be quickly rebooked, refunded or rerouted because their customer service is so minimal.

I would never expect such a poor level of customer service as a status member with British Airways, but the Ryanair value proposition is different.

Cheap fares, no more, no less.

I do know that Ryanair cabin crew are paid extremely low wages (although many British Airways cabin crew are as well). However I had assumed Ryanair pilots were paid quite well.

But Ryanair pilots in Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands have gone on strike this week over both pay and conditions, cancelling up to 400 flights per day and affecting almost 70,000 travelers. The strikes have now reached their fifth day.

August is the busiest month of the year for travel in Europe, and it’s worth noting that Ryanair operated flights in 37 countries, while only these five countries are affected.

Each country’s pilots seem to be striking at different times, but if all five countries strike again tomorrow, there should be around another 400 flights cancelled. The Ryanair Irish pilots union is currently in mediation with Ryanair to resolve the issue.

However, this mediation is expected to last until the end of Wednesday of this week.

What to do if you are affected

Ryanair has said it is doing everything it can to ‘refund, reroute or otherwise accommodate affected passengers’ in line with their duty of care obligations under EU261. But if you are affected, be realistic about the speed in which the assistance a ultra-low cost airline will be able to give you. Expect very long wait times at both airport customer service counters and call centres.

I believe Ryanair has some level of social media presence, but it is so sparsely staffed, they are unlikely to be able to provide any meaningful assistance.

Steph has written a useful guide on what to do if you suffer from a cancelled flight from a US full-service carrier perspective here which may be of interest.

Under EU261 regulations, Ryanair owes you a duty of care to refund you, provide accommodation and food depending on your situation, and where possible, get you to your destination (i.e. by rerouting, rescheduling or potentially booking you on to another carrier). Now on top of this, Ryanair is claiming that no financial compensation is due, because a staff strike is an extraordinary circumstance. British Airways and Air France also hold this view that compensation is not payable for staff strikes.

But the Civil Aviation Authority has recently come out and publicly taken the bold step of encouraging affected passengers to claim compensation for this strike, saying that a staff strike is not an extraordinary circumstance, following a recent European Court of Justice decision. This decision said that ‘wildcat strikes’ (being those taken by staff without their unions authorisation) is not an extraordinary circumstance. This Ryanair strike is not a wildcat strike as their union is involved. But my interpretation of the CAA’s advice from this link is that although the CAA realise the Ryanair strike is not a wildcat strike (so slightly different to the ECJ ruling example), they are still encouraging passengers to claim compensation as a normal strike, I guess because they hope this will lead to a test case where the ECJ will expand compensation to include both wildcat and ordinary strikes.

If every customer affected by this strike is awarded EU261 compensation, the strike will cost Ryanair around £30 million.

There is a guide on EU261 compensation and assistance (including amounts, distance and eligibility) here.

Bottom line

I am interested to understand what would attract pilots to work for Ryanair. There’s currently a worldwide shortage of pilots, so they can afford to be choosey, and unless a particular pilot happened to live near one of the random, rural airports Ryanair bases their planes at, I can’t imagine Ryannair would be an attractive choice for aspiring pilots to join.

Strikes, especially in peak travel periods are an absolute last resort in labor condition discussions, so I would certainly be frustrated if I was affected, but equally appreciate the reasons behind the staff’s decision to take such drastic action.

If you do encounter any Ryanair customer service staff to deal with your cancelled flight, be patient and cordial to them, as it is not their fault the pilots are striking, and they are likely to be overwhelmed with unhappy customer issues to resolve. You have EU261 rights and Ryanair owes you a duty of care, I just can’t say how quickly they will realistically be addressed by Ryanair customer service. I would recommend also claiming submitting a compensation claim based on the CAA’s encouragement – you have little to lose.

For anyone who says ‘this is exactly why I don’t fly Ryanair, remember Air France staff strike pretty much every month.

Have you ever had a cancelled flight as a result of strike action?

  1. “I’ve probably taken ABOUT 30 flights”

    Wow, James. Get on Openflights or Flightmemory. Tsk tsk tsk

  2. What do you mean by ” but I would expect you will have better luck with the EU261 “?

    In this case EU261 requires Ryanair to offer you an alternative flight or a refund. They might have to provide hotel and meals as well, depending on your personal circumstances. No compensation is due, because ordinary strikes are an exceptional circumstance.

  3. ULCCs, all of them, treat their workers like trash and the pay is bare minimum. Why the hell do you think your prices are so cheap? I hope the pilots keep protesting the hell out of them.

  4. “Ryanair customer service staff ”

    Is there any?

    I believe there are only airport service staff or contractors servicing Ryanair with no decision power, in continental Europe.

  5. @ Rui N, @ Emily – apologies, that was vague wording on my part. I have updated the post to more accurately clarify EU261, especially the recent CAA advice. Cheers.

  6. @James, thanks for updating regarding EU261. The CAA would be really pushing the boundaries here, it that article was true, as the recent CJEU decision specifically refers to wildcat strikes, not ordinary strikes like this.

    But, alas, the CAA did not say such a thing. Here’s what they said:

    ” The UK Civil Aviation Authority notes the ruling by the European Court of Justice and welcomes the clarity it provides to consumers who are impacted by wildcat strikes.

    Although wildcat strikes are illegal in the United Kingdom, British passengers travelling abroad may have experienced disruption as a result of such action. This ruling means that any passenger who has been impacted by wildcat strike action can pursue a claim for compensation under EU261. This also means that any passenger who feels that a previous claim was refused on the basis of the disruption being as a result of wildcat strike action could now go back to their airline and request their claim is reviewed.”

  7. @ Rui N – good point on discussing the difference between ordinary and wildcat strikes but my interpretation of the CAA advice was that they understood this Ryanair strike was not a wildcat strike but still encourage passengers to claim anyway. I’m guessing this is because they want a second test case for the CJEU to expand their ruling to cover ordinary strikes as well as wildcat?

  8. Does Emirates still have a pilot shortage? If these pilots want higher pay and better benefits, perhaps they should apply to become an EK pilot.

  9. @ Joey – many airlines have a shortage. Unless these pilots live very close to a Ryanair base and don’t wish to overnight anywhere, I’m curious as to what attracts them to work for Ryanair.

  10. Although there are shortages of pilots overall in the world, I suspect many of the shortages are in parts of the world most wouldn’t want to live in for a variety of reasons such as in China. So I guess that is probably why many stay with Ryanair etc.

  11. @ vlcnc – I believe some Chinese airlines are so desperate that foreign pilots can live at home (i.e. in Europe) and simply operate the route from their home city to China, and return.

  12. @James
    You clearly wrote this post last week and was meant to be posted last week too.

    The strikes were on the 10th (last Friday) which is last week. You ought to have written “went on strike” where you link a 4day old story. In Germany, the talks with the Union are not mean’t to last till Wednesday (tomorrow) but that’s the first date they have set.

    The 2nd part should have read ….’do if you WERE affected’. Ryanair had promised to do everything possible to inform affected passengers BEFORE the strikes. And they did that such that there weren’t any chaos at airports.
    Most of the article should have been in past tense.
    Love reading your posts but this is one that has been posted a few days late and should have been updated accordingly James.

  13. @ Sam – I wrote this article yesterday. I was offline camping all weekend (hence no posts from me over the weekend) so unable to write during that time.

  14. Not having to overnight is a massive deal for any pilot with a family and working for Ryanair gives them a chance to be able to spend every night at home.

    Why would you think that nobody would want to fly for them? Salaries seem comparable and working conditions don’t necessarily bear any resemblance to the passenger experience.

  15. This article can be considered as a bit fake news …. The strike was on friday august 10th … there’s no such thing as ‘the strikes now reached their fifth day’ ….

    It was one day with around 400 flights cancelled (Belgium 100, Germany 250, Sweden around 20, Ireland also around 20 … In the Netherlands all the pilots joined the strike as well, but Ryanair flew in outside crew to perform the flights, hence no flight was cancelled there.

    Get the facts straight please 🙂

  16. EU261:

    Ordinary strikes are a typical business risk of any enterprise. They are therefore covered by EU261.

    Wildcat strikes are not supposed to happen, because there is a high risk for wildcat strikes to be called illegal. Since such wildcat strikes are (at least borderline) illegal, one could claim that they aren’t covered by EU261. EU courts have recently ruled on those.

  17. Young pilots are attracted to Ryanair because it is not that difficult to a) get a job and b) rack up flight times quickly and c) Ryanair is based in Europe.

  18. @ Jackie you realise you are a foreigner But if you are an American trump supporter it explains a lot as you are the o stupid and bigoted. Set up your own blog rather than being a miserable grouch

    FYI if you live in Germany the courts consider strikes extraordinary and you won’t be entitled to compensation I found this recently

  19. @James, please proofread your posts before publishing. It’d be a shame for OMAAT to become as sloppy as TPG. Thankfully, you all usually correct/update posts quickly. 🙂 In any case, it was an informative post… not that I’d fly Ryanair by choice. :-p

    Some examples:
    “…most hates airline.” *hated
    “…unions authorisation” *union’s
    “There’s currently a worldwide shortage of pilots, so they can afford to be choosey…” *link and *can’t

  20. Maybe Ryanair is the easiest and fastest way to get a job and start flying as an inexperienced pilot? Then after 1-2 years they will go to another company.

    Personally I also have positive experience with Ryanair. Though I have only taken around 8 flights. One time my flight got cancelled due to ATC strike in France (surprise) and they offered to rebook on flight or an instant refound, hassle free. But this was 5 years ago so maybe things have changed.

  21. James,

    There’s all kinds of reasons why people choose one job over another. For one thing, long haul flying isn’t for everybody. Second, at least in the US, pilot pay scales are based on company seniority. Switching jobs means giving up your seniority. Then there’s the issue of a possible bubble — I’m not saying there is one, but just because the times are good, doesn’t mean they will last. So hopping for a better offer needs to be done with the long term play in mind.

  22. @James: I’m not really sure how that works? Especially if their hub is in China somewhere, surely you would still have to spend a considerable amount of time there? Which is my point – a lot of people won’t want to do that for variety of reasons be that relationships, family, children to name but a few…

  23. I was booked on a Northwest Airlines flight the day of a historic strike. Or a threat of one… I made it to my destination. I overheard a lot of jabber between the flight attendants etc. Pilot wages start pretty low in general. Maybe Ryanair is a training ground of sorts and pays freakishly low. At any rate, strike is an average day in France so not out of the ordinary at all in that place. I don’t know about other countries in Europe.

  24. Too bad you guys don’t seem to care about the facts and still keep this article online without updating it.

    In times of fake news, and people playing with facts, it is a shame that even on these kind of website one can find totally fabricated ‘news’ stories.

    – the strike was on august 10th (just one day, five countries at the same time)

    You seem to suggest that the strike was on seperate days (it was not, at least this one not, the irish pilots did have a strike the week before, and the cabin crew held a strike two weeks earlier in Belgium, Italy (24 hours) Spain and Portugal for 48hours)

    The strikes didn’t reach a ‘fifth day’ …. Cause there was only one day.

    Please correct the mistakes 🙂

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