Hundreds of Ryanair flights cancelled today as pilots strike in five countries

Ryanair strike Pilots in the Netherlands to join Europe-wide strikes on Friday

Tens of thousands of passengers have had their flights cancelled as Ryanair pilots across five European countries launched a mass walkout.

The Dutch pilots union VNV said it was the first time in Europe that an airline had gone to court to prevent industrial action, the Financieele Dagblad reported.

The 24-hour walk-out involves staff in Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Nearly 400 flights have been cancelled today, affecting more than 55,000 passengers.

That was because the strikes were hurting bookings, Ryanair said, and although it was too early to assess the impact elsewhere, it added that the action will hit average fares from having to move customers to flights it could otherwise have sold at a high last-minute price. 'The strike may go ahead, ' a judge said.

Ryanair has refused to issue a list of the flights cancelled, but The Times understands that at least 50 departures from the United Kingdom have been called off, with more than 250 cancelled in Ireland.

Around 55,000 passengers would be affected by the strikes, said Ryanair, which has offered customers refunds or the option of rerouting their journey.

Ryanair operates more than 2,000 flights a day, serving 223 airports across 37 countries in Europe and North Africa, and insists it will not change the low-priced model that transformed the industry and has made it Europe's most profitable airline.


Ryanair built its low-priced business model without unions, but said past year it would recognise them.

Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair marketing director, called the strike "useless", and said that Ryanair pilots are paid better than their counterparts at competitor airlines Easyjet or Norwegian.

Other concerns are the status of contractors whose working conditions are not as good as those enjoyed by permanently employed staff and employee contracts based on Irish legislation.

He added that Ryanair had already offered a 20% pay increase this year, and that 80% of its pilots in Germany were now on permanent contracts.

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.

Unions have strongly condemned what they see as Ryanair's attempts to play countries off against each other.

"I think it also sends a signal to other companies where workers are played off against each other", he told Germany's regional broadcaster RBB.

"We want to apologise to customers affected by this unnecessary disruption and we ask the striking unions to continue negotiations instead of calling anymore unjustified strikes [sic]".

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