Rolling Ryanair stoppages loom as 5,000 left grounded
The threat of rolling summer strikes at Ryanair looms as up to 5,000 passengers will be hit by the first stoppage by its Irish-based pilots today.
Last-ditch discussions between the budget airline and the Irish Air Line Pilots Association at Dublin Airport broke down yesterday.
Ryanair has cancelled 30 flights out of the 290 that are scheduled to take off during today's 24-hour stoppage at the height of the holiday season.
But the uncertainty is set to continue into autumn as sources say further strikes by Irish-based pilots are likely to take place later this month and during August without a breakthrough in the row.
Cabin crew across Europe have already announced strike dates at the end of the month and German pilots are balloting on industrial action.
Speaking after the talks fell apart, senior pilot negotiator Bernard Harbor would not rule out an escalation of industrial action.
"We need to look at that after tomorrow," he said. "The ballot mandate is still there."
Ryanair pulled out all the stops to minimise disruption during today's strike so that only those travelling between Ireland and the UK will be hit. All flights to and from Europe will operate as normal.
However, most of its 350 pilots are contractors rather than the directly employed staff who are mounting today's pickets. Those who are rostered are legally obliged to work.
A Spanish pilots union sent a message to its members yesterday asking them to seek its guidance if asked to operate any flight while their "fellow pilots" were on strike in Ireland.
It is debatable whether yesterday's 11th hour talks could have made much difference as passengers had already dealt with the disruption. Most of them had either organised refunds or been accommodated on alternative flights.
Ryanair said over 90pc of its 5,000 customers whose flights were cancelled were rebooked on alternative flights or had applied for full refunds by 5pm yesterday.
Some left on earlier flights while others will travel tomorrow or at the weekend.
The pilots are demanding a more "transparent" way of allocating holidays, promotions and transfers between bases.
Mr Harbor, spokesman for the Fórsa union, said the talks broke down because both sides could not agree the terms of reference for a new working group on these issues. He said there were no plans for further talks.
When asked why the parties had not met earlier, he said disagreements over where they would meet led to the delay.
"To be honest, we would have liked to meet the management sooner," he said.
In a statement, Ryanair said it expects the strike by 27pc of its pilots to go ahead from 1am tonight.
It said it offered a working group but "regrettably, agreement on this sensible course of action wasn't possible after seven hours of talks".