Ryanair strike: One in six flights cancelled in pilot walkout

Ryanair strike Dutch pilots are disputing working conditions

Ryanair pilots are striking in five European countries, forcing the cancellation of a sixth of the firm's flights during the holiday season peak.

Ryanair operates more than 2,000 flights a day, serving 223 airports across 37 countries in Europe and North Africa, and insists it will not change the low-priced model that transformed the industry and has made it Europe's most profitable airline. They would have the option of a refund, rebooking on the next flight or rerouting.

Ryanair has refused to issue a list of the flights cancelled, but The Times understands that at least 50 departures from the United Kingdom have been called off, with more than 250 cancelled in Ireland.

The company called the strike "unjustified and unnecessary" given recent pay increases and "invitations to meet for meaning negotiations". Irish pilots recently staged four one-day walkouts, while cabin crew in Spain, Belgium, Italy and Portugal went on strike on July 25 and 26.

In the Netherlands, Ryanair filed for an urgent court order to try to prevent Dutch pilots from joining the industrial action.

Ryanair, which flies in 37 countries and carried 130million people last year, averted widespread Christmas strikes last year by agreeing to recognise trade unions for the first time in its 33-year history.

But there have been protests ever since over the negotiating of collective labour agreements.

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But Ryanair pilots say they earn less than counterparts at other airlines like Lufthansa.

In the Netherlands, around 22 flights from Eindhoven airport could potentially be affected, the ANP news agency reported.

Staff are holding a 24-hour walkout over pay and conditions.

"The majority of customers have already been accommodated on another Ryanair flight".

Unions representing Ryanair staff said they want work rules to be governed by the laws of countries where employees are based, not the laws in Ireland where Ryanair is headquartered.

But chief executive Michael O'Leary has also warned the airline may shift jobs and planes to more profitable areas if the turmoil continues.

That was because the strikes were hurting bookings, Ryanair said, and although it was too early to assess the impact elsewhere, it added that the action will hit average fares from having to move customers to flights it could otherwise have sold at a high last-minute price.

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