Thursday 18 April 2019

Pilot strike to hit 4,000 passengers as Ryanair axes flights

High hopes: Kenny Jacobs. Picture: Bloomberg
High hopes: Kenny Jacobs. Picture: Bloomberg

Anne-Marie Walsh

Up to 4,000 Ryanair customers face potential travel disruption when their flights are grounded during a second strike by pilots on Friday.

The budget airline has cancelled 24 flights on UK routes, including Dublin to Glasgow, Newcastle and Manchester, during the 24-hour stoppage.

Another 4,000 customers will also face disruption next Tuesday if a third strike goes ahead.

But a senior official at the budget airline said he has high hopes that the Irish Air Line Pilots' Association division of the Fórsa union will call off next week's stoppage today.

Chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs was speaking as both sides are expected to meet to discuss the pilots' demands for better terms and conditions.

Almost 13,000 passengers will have faced flight cancellations since the industrial action began if next week's strike goes ahead.

It has also been revealed that some passengers were re-accommodated on Aer Lingus flights to reach their destinations during the first strike.

Ryanair cancelled 24 flights on high frequency routes yesterday. It said all customers affected received text and email notifications. Customers can fly tomorrow, Thursday, Saturday, or beyond that instead.

"We apologise again to these Irish customers for these regrettable and unnecessary disruptions which we have done our utmost to avoid," said the airline in a notice to customers.

Pilots want the roll-out of a 'seniority list' to determine who gets holidays, base transfers and promotions.

But Ryanair claims such a system would put the pilots and airline at a disadvantage.

Mr Jacobs revealed that the airline had to book a "handful" of customers on Aer Lingus flights during the first strike last Thursday.

"Hopefully Tuesday's strike will be called off," he said.

He said the union has accepted the company's offer to set up a working group to discuss the main issues.

He said if a seniority system was put in place, a captain based in Berlin who was near the top of the list because they had longer service could displace an Irish captain if their base was downsized. He said you could not "copy and paste" a model at Aer Lingus into Ryanair's business model.

The company does not want an intervention by a State mediation body at this point. "We don't want to get bogged down in a 1980s industrial relations quagmire," said Mr Jacobs.

Fórsa said the industrial action is being taken by most of the pilots who are directly employed by Ryanair - as opposed to contractors.

A spokesman said 99pc of them backed industrial action.

"Not enough progress made in talks to suspend action," he said. "We've proposed meeting Ryanair today or tomorrow. We are awaiting a response."

When asked about Ryanair's claim that the seniority system would put pilots at a disadvantage, he would not comment.

Irish Independent

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