Ryanair to cancel 220 flights on Monday as Michael O’Leary says 40,000 Bank Holiday travellers will be hit by air traffic strikes

Ryanair airplanes

Wayne O'Connor

Ryanair has said it has been forced to cancel 220 flights on Bank Holiday Monday because of air traffic control strikes in France.

The airline’s chief executive Michael O’Leary apologised to 40,000 passengers affected by the cancelations and hit out at French authorities and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen over the disruption.

In a video posted on social media, he claimed flights using French airspace without departing from or arriving in France were being importunately affected by the strike action.

Michael O'Leary: 220 flight cancellations on Bank Holiday Monday due to French ATC strike

French workers have been holding regular strikes this year in protest at plans by French President Emmanuel Macron to raise the country’s retirement age from 62 to 64.

“France is using minimum service legislation to protect its local French flights, but all the cancellations are then being disproportionately being passed on to English flights, Irish flights, Italian flights, Spanish flights [and] German flights. This is unfair,” Mr O’Leary said.

Monday’s strike will be the 51st day of action by French air traffic controllers (ATC).

Ryanair has previously accused Ms Von Der Leyen and the European Commission of sitting on their hands over the issue.

The airline said more than 620,000 people had signed its petition calling on Ms Von Der Leyen to take action and protect passengers.

“When there are ATC strikes in Italy, they protect overflights,” Mr O’Leary said.

“In Greece they protect overflights. France must be required by the EU commission to protect overflights.

“It is unfair that flights from the UK to Spain or from Italy to Portugal are being cancelled simply because a bunch of French air traffic control units want to go on strike. We respect their right to strike, but if they want to strike cancel the French flights, protect the overflights.”

He said passengers on affected routes have been contacted via email and work is ongoing to accommodate them.

“To those 40,000 passengers whose flights will be cancelled on Monday, we apologise sincerely,” Mr O’Leary added.

It is not yet clear which flight the airline intends to cancel, or what proportion of them will depart from or arrive in Irish airports.