Reputation is key for every airline, but one of the largest LCCs Ryanair is ready to risk it over its rigid organisational culture and crude staff management practices. After carrier’s Ireland-based pilots announced a strike on the 12th of July, cabin crew from Spain, Italy, Portugal and Belgium followed with a walkout that is planned to halt flights on the 25th and 26th of July.
Since April, Ryanair has been subject to cabin crew and pilot unions’ criticism: apparently, the airline was not taking their demands seriously. After Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (IALPA) announced its decision to strike on the 12th of July, Ryanair responded with a plea to call it off, calling the pilot walkout ‘unnecessary’.
IALPA is fighting for a more transparent system of transferring pilots between the airline’s European and African bases – as it is, it negatively affects pilots’ family life. Meanwhile, the crews in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Belgium wish for better pay, improved working conditions, transparency in rostering and supportive workplace culture, which currently features rigid disciplinary procedures and unachievable sales targets. The unions have issued a list of demands, but the carrier isn’t budging.
Ryanair, Europe’s largest LCC by passenger numbers, transports about 130 million travellers per year. However, lately, the leading position is seemingly turning into a heavy cross to bear. 400 thousand of Ryanair’s passengers had their flights cancelled last September due to rota mistakes. Another 210 thousand found their flights disrupted by air traffic controller strikes in June. Consequently, Ryanair’s enduring inaction is bound to results in further flight disruptions.
According to national service broadcaster in Ireland, RTE, a 24h strike on Thursday is likely to affect around 42 000 passengers, while cancellations during the late July walkout across Europe are still too vague to predict, but they’re expected to disrupt the trips of hundreds of thousands.
“These summer strike numbers are higher than the sum of the five previous seasons together. Ryanair has recognized trade unions to avert flight chaos in December 2017, but instead of initiating an accord between its management and employees, the carrier chooses to ignore the negotiation and presented issues. Naturally, unions have turned to the last straw to defend their demands – a strike,” comments Marius Stonkus, the CEO of flight compensation company Skycop.
In the wake of a strike announcement in Ireland, Ryanair has urged cockpit crew who are neither taking part in the protests nor not scheduled to work to volunteer and cover for their colleagues so that Irish customers would not feel the disruption.
Those who will have their flights cancelled or delayed, unfortunately, will not be entitled to flight compensation, as the current EU law still recognises pre-planned strikes as “extraordinary circumstance”. Other disruptions that fall into this category and exempt an airline from paying out flight compensations ranging from €250 to €600 include extreme weather conditions, aircraft manufacturing defects and other force majeure situations.
Although not eligible for flight compensations, travellers whose flights will be delayed for more than two hours should still be treated according to the regulation. The European law demands carriers to supply meals, refreshments, provide access to the Internet as well as accommodation with transport to/from the airport if travelers have to wait overnight.
“Based on Eurocontrol, this summer flight disruption numbers jumped to highest since 2013 with poor weather conditions and walkouts in France, Italy as well as other European countries being the main reasons for tedious flight delays and cancellations. Today passengers in Europe suffer from weak airline management – carriers’ profits are on the rise, yet staff pay is that of economic recession. We support pilots and cabin crew over their requests because it’s their psychological and physical health that ensures pleasant and safe flights for all of us,” comments M. Stonkus.
Flight compensation company Skycop has set up a petition to convince the European Commission to remove airline strikes from the “extraordinary circumstances” category. The petition argues that every employer is responsible for their staff being satisfied with the work they do. Strikes are the final measure when all other options have failed to make the management negotiate. All airlines are well informed about planned walkouts and have months to prepare or start a discussion.