Monday 16 September 2019

Verdict on Ryanair strike may mean air passengers face last-minute dash

Evan Cullen, president of Ialpa, faces Ryanair action. Photo: Collins Courts
Evan Cullen, president of Ialpa, faces Ryanair action. Photo: Collins Courts

Anne-Marie Walsh and Aodhan O Faolain

Thousands of Ryanair passengers face the prospect of a last-minute dash to get to their destinations as the threat of a 48-hour strike hangs in the balance.

Those who may be hit by a two-day stoppage by Irish and UK-based pilots, set to start at midnight tomorrow, will only find out today if their flights are cancelled.

This is because the High Court is due to issue a decision this morning whether to grant the airline an injunction to prevent its Irish-based pilots from going on strike over pay and conditions.

If the ruling does not go in its favour, the airline may only have a matter of hours to put contingency plans in place.

Only flights to and from the UK rather than European holiday routes may be affected, as was the case during last year's strikes by roughly the same number of pilots.

The budget airline managed to keep the vast portion of its fleet in the air because only 180 of its 400-strong pilot crew based in Ireland mounted pickets.

A Commission for Aviation Regulation spokesperson said that passengers should do nothing until they hear their flight has been cancelled.

He said in the worst case scenario the airline will have to offer a refund or a re-routing "so you won't be stranded".

"Perhaps inform yourself of your entitlements beforehand, but wait until you hear from the airline," he said.

"Then if you do, follow the options and keep any receipts for reasonable expenditure."

As well as expenses if re-routed, passengers may be eligible for compensation if their flight is cancelled or delayed for more than three hours.

Ryanair is seeking orders against Fórsa, the parent union of the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (Ialpa), preventing the pilots from striking for 48 hours from midnight tomorrow.

Ialpa recently balloted its members who overwhelmingly voted to go on strike.

Ryanair's action, which is opposed, is also against several pilots who are members of Ialpa, including its president Evan Cullen.

Following the conclusion of submissions from both parties yesterday, Mr Justice Denis McDonald said he would give his decision as close to 10.30am today as possible.

The judge said that the court had to rule as soon as possible as there were many passengers in Ireland and abroad awaiting the outcome of the application.

In seeking the injunction, the airline, represented by Martin Hayden SC and Eoin O'Shea Bl, claims that the proposed strike breaches an agreement the parties signed up to last year.

It claimed that agreement, following industrial action last July and August, was entered into following mediation by retired Workplace Relations Commission chair Kieran Mulvey.

Ryanair alleges that no detailed pay proposals were put to it by Fórsa in advance of the ballot or by the time the strike notice was served.

Belgium's CNE and ACV PULS trade unions have told members not to comply with a Ryanair request to staff flights affected by a planned strike by Portuguese crew.

In the letter to Ryanair, the two Belgian unions said cabin crew and pilots stationed in Belgium had been asked to staff some affected flights.

"Unfortunately we had to conclude that Ryanair decided to import the conflict that is going on in Portugal to Belgium.

"We cannot agree with this state of affairs and will therefore call on our members not to staff these flights," it said.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News