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Ryanair strike hits 55,000 travellers across Europe

Ryanair strike hits 55,000 travellers across Europe


Reuters
DUBLIN/BERLIN
Ryanair endured its worst one-day strike on Friday after a walk-out by pilots in five European countries disrupted the plans of an estimated 55,000 travellers with the budget airline at the height of the summer holiday season.
Ryanair, which averted widespread strikes before last Christmas by agreeing to recognise unions for the first time in its 30-year history, has been unable to quell rising protests over slow progress in negotiating collective labour agreements.
In response to unions serving strike notices, Ryanair had announced the cancellations of 250 flights in and out of Germany, 104 to and from Belgium and another 42 in Sweden and its home market of Ireland, where around a quarter of its pilots were staging their fifth 24-hour walkout.
The airline expected the travel plans of 42,000 travellers to be hit by the action in Germany alone, with the majority of passengers switched to another Ryanair flight and the remainder either refunded or rerouted.
"What I find unjustified is that the pilots draw the short straw, because people want to fly cheaply,"said Daniel Flamman, one of several passengers Reuters spoke to at Frankfurt airport who said they sympathised with the pilots.
"It's annoying that it's happening in the summer holidays, but it's the only means they have."
Ingolf Schumacher, pay negotiator at Germany's Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) union, said pilots had to be prepared for"a very long battle"and that it could take months to push through change at Europe's largest low-cost carrier.
The unrest is one of the biggest challenges to face long-term chief executive Michael O'Leary, who was once quoted as saying he would rather cut off his hand than recognise unions and on another occasion crossed a picket line of baggage handlers to help load a plane.
The outspoken O'Leary has in recent years tried to soften Ryanair's abrasive public image, fearing it could be counter-productive for Europe's most profitable airline.
Unions are pushing for better pay and conditions at Ryanair and want collective labour contracts governed by local laws, rather than Irish ones.
Among other issues, they are also seeking changes to Ryanair's practice of moving staff to different bases without much notice, and a reduction in hours.
A Dutch court rejected a case from Ryanair seeking to block pilots in the Netherlands from joining Friday's strike, but the Irish airline said all of its flights there would run as scheduled.
The impact of the strike was limited with Ryanair apparently able to replace the striking Dutch pilots.

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