Ryanair cancels more flights between Spain and Italy, Belgium

Although a minimum service is being provided in Spain, no similar provisions exist in the other two countries, where cabin crew are also on strike

Ryanair workers demonstrate at Adolfo Suarez Barajas airport in Madrid.
Ryanair workers demonstrate at Adolfo Suarez Barajas airport in Madrid.SUSANA VERA (REUTERS)

Ryanair cancelled a further 24 flights on Wednesday on top of the 400 it had eliminated ahead of a cabin crew strike, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.

These additional flights had departures or arrivals in Italy, where company employees are also striking but where no minimum services have been decreed, unlike Spain.

Flights between Brussels and Palma de Mallorca have also been cancelled. Belgium and Portugal did not have minimum service requirements either, and cabin crew did not show up for work as the company had been hoping.

In all, Ryanair has grounded 150 additional flights across Europe on top of the 600 it had already cancelled ahead of the industrial action scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

The stoppage began on Wednesday morning after a last-minute meeting between union and management representatives failed to produce an agreement. Cabin crew employees are striking simultaneously in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Belgium.

“We are going on strike,” said Ernesto Iglesias, a delegate for USO, one of the unions that has organized the walkout. Iglesias said the company refuses to reduce the salary gaps between employees or to reduce its reliance on temporary workers

Unions said that Ryanair has taken advantage of the minimum services decreed by the Spanish government – 100% of domestic flights between the mainland and the islands, 35% to 59 % of flights on domestic routes between mainland cities, and 59% of flights to international destinations – to reprogram flights.

Stranded passengers

At Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez-Barajas airport, Ryanair clients were being handed out guidelines on how to contact customer service.

Some Ryanair customers were still unsure on Wednesday morning whether their flight would be departing or not. Eduardo Marcos showed up at Barajas airport at 6am because he didn’t know whether his plane to Sicily would take off or not. “I called them but they didn’t answer me, so I decided to come and see whether I could fly in the end,” he says.

Gloria García and her mother waited their turn to talk to the customer desk after their flight to Pisa appeared to have been cancelled. “They cancelled my flight to Bologna six days ago and I bought this one instead. And now, one hour and 20 minutes before the departure time, they tell me that I’m not flying today either, and it’s not showing up on the screens,” said Gloria.

Ryanair has announced a fleet reduction in Dublin and says  300 jobs are up in the air

The company has been notifying affected passengers in recent days and offering them alternative flights or refunds, but it refuses to provide additional compensation alleging that the strike represents an “extraordinary circumstance” that falls outside the requirement of paying out between €250 and €600 for cancellations, according to European air passenger rights regulations.

Both the consumer association FACUA and the Spanish Air Safety Agency (AESA) disagree with this view, noting that cancellations were not announced 15 days in advance and that the strike is by company personnel, which does not represent an extraordinary circumstance outside the airline’s powers.

“The first claim for compensation must be addressed to Ryanair,” said FACUA spokesman Rubén Sánchez in a radio interview. “Customers must tell Ryanair to pay compensation for damages, which could even be moral damages: imagine someone was going on their honeymoon. Filing a claim is free, and we need proof that we have taken this step.”

Ryanair has been threatening layoffs if the strikes persist throughout the summer. The company has announced a fleet reduction in Dublin for the winter campaign, and 300 jobs are up in the air, according to a company release reported on by the news agency AFP.

English version by Susana Urra.


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