Ryanair has failed in a legal effort to prevent a 48-hour strike by British pilots on Thursday and Friday, but claimed that passengers were unlikely to be affected because it could still run a full schedule on both days.
The Dublin-based carrier had earlier been granted an injunction to stop a separate 48-hour strike by Irish-based pilots, halting planned action by 180 members of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (Ialpa).
But the high court in London ruled that pilots represented by the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) union could press ahead with their strike, which begins at 00.01am on Thursday ahead of the bank holiday weekend. A further 72-hour strike is due to begin on 2 September.
In a statement that omitted to mention the court’s verdict, Ryanair said: “We do not expect significant disruptions on Thurs [sic] or Friday, however we cannot rule out some small flight delays and/or flight changes. We are working hard with our pilots teams [sic] to minimise any such delays for our customers and their families.”
The airline said passengers booked to travel over the 48-hour period should arrive at airports as normal and could expect to depart on time.
The carrier claimed that pilots were asking for their income to be doubled from £170,000 a year to more than £375,500 “just nine weeks before Brexit, which could severely damage Ryanair’s business and UK pilot jobs”.
But Balpa’s general secretary, Brian Strutton, said the figure was “purely designed to exaggerate” the union’s demands.
“The public know enough about Ryanair to take their spin with a massive heap of salt,” he said. “We want to address issues like pensions, loss of licence insurance, maternity benefits, allowances, and harmonise pay across the UK in a fair, transparent and consistent structure.”
Both sides called on each other to return to the negotiating table, with Balpa labelling Ryanair “foolish” for seeking to block walkouts through the courts.
Strutton said: “We offered to meet Ryanair management at Acas to negotiate a resolution, but instead they attempted a legal bludgeon. That’s backfired.”
Ryanair said: “British pilots earning six-figure annual salaries should not be threatening the holiday flights of thousands of British passengers and their families (very few of whom earn over £170,000 per annum).”
The consumer rights group Which? called on Ryanair not to attempt to “fob off” any customers entitled to compensation if flights are disrupted.
“The threat of more travel chaos over this busy bank holiday weekend will be a crushing blow for passengers who are likely to have spent weeks worrying about whether their holiday flights will take off,” said Adam French, a consumer rights expert. “Ryanair now needs to take every possible step to minimise disruption by informing passengers likely to be affected and offering refunds or alternative transport as required by law in the event of cancellation – if necessary, on other airlines.
“The airline already has a track record of trying to shirk its responsibility to pay compensation to passengers when strikes by its staff go ahead, so we would expect the aviation regulator to step in and take strong action at the first sign of the airline trying to fob off its customers.”
While Balpa’s strike will go ahead, a planned walkout by Irish pilots will not.
The Irish high court agreed with legal arguments made by Ryanair that Ialpa had not allowed for a mediation process to be completed before announcing the strike.
In a tweet after the ruling, Ryanair said the injunction prevents a “small minority” of Irish pilots from striking, “which will come as a huge relief to thousands of Irish passengers and their families during the last week of the school holidays”.
up to £180,000 a year.
For many years, Ryanair refused to recognise trade unions, but it changed its stance at the beginning of 2018 after an error caused the airline to mismanage its pilot rostering schedule. The carrier was forced to cancel hundreds of flights, putting itself at the mercy of pilots to resolve the mess.
Last month, Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, told staff to prepare for up to 900 job cuts as he warned that expansion plans would be slowed dramatically after the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max. HE said in a video message to employees that Ryanair had an excess of 500 pilots and about 400 cabin crew.
Earlier this year, Ryanair was named the UK’s least-liked short-haul airline for the sixth year running. The results from a Which? survey of air passengers ranked Ryanair at the bottom of 19 carriers flying from the UK.