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Pilot strikes will not affect UK flights, Ryanair tells customers

Ryanair has told its customers that all of its UK flights will take off as scheduled next week, despite the three-day strike called by the pilots’ union Balpa.

The airline said more than 95% of UK pilots had confirmed that they would work their rosters during the industrial action, due to take place on Monday to Wednesday, 2-4 September.

Balpa declined to comment on the claims.

A two-day strike in August by Balpa pilots, which Ryanair had unsuccessfully sought to prevent with a high court injunction, failed to stop any of the 892 daily flights from operating, according to the airline.

Although Balpa has refused to confirm pilot numbers, Ryanair has claimed that fewer than 30% of its 1,250 UK pilots voted for industrial action.

In a statement delivered to customers who have booked travel next week, Ryanair said: “All Ryanair flights to/from UK airports on 2-4 September will operate as scheduled thanks to the efforts of over 95% of our UK pilots who have confirmed that they will work their rosters, and will not support this failed third [sic] Balpa strike action.

When an airline starts cancelling or delaying flights for more than three hours, passengers are entitled to compensation of €250-€600 (£230-£550) under EU rules.

The cause of the problem has to be under the airline’s control and not an ‘extraordinary circumstance’. Lack of planes/staff, flight overbooking, a strike by airline staff or an IT failure are all considered to be within the airline’s control – so compensation is payable.

Passengers on cancelled short-haul flights – up to 1,500km – are entitled to €250 or £230. For flights of 1,500km-3,500km, passengers are entitled to €400, and €600 for the longest flights (more than 3,500km).

Compensation is also payable if the plane is delayed. The payments are the same but only kick in when the plane has been delayed three hours for short flights or four hours for the longer trips. The delay is calculated against the time the plane was due to arrive.

Passengers are also entitled to ‘assistance’ under the EU rules. Short-haul passengers should receive food and water after two hours. Mid-distance passengers get help after three hours, while long-haul passengers receive it after they have been held in the terminal for four hours. If the delay is overnight, passengers should be provided with hotel accommodation but this often does not happen. This assistance should be provided irrespective of whether the delay is the airline’s fault.

The airlines have fought these compensation rules since they were introduced and passengers have had to go to court to get their money. The airlines frequently blame delays on events outside their control. Freak weather events or a last-minute strike by air traffic controllers are deemed to be outside their control. A lack of planes or staff is not.

The rules only apply to EU-based airlines or all flights that start in the EU on non-EU based carriers. What will happen after Brexit is not yet clear. Miles Brignall

“We do not expect any pilot strike disruptions to our schedule.”

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Ryanair said that it had invited Balpa to meet to resume negotiations, but the union had refused.

Balpa has said that none of the issues it had raised on behalf of its members in March – including pensions, maternity benefits, and a fair, transparent pay structure – had been addressed by Ryanair.

Ryanair has, however, cancelled 14 flights to and from Spain next week as a result of strikes by Spanish cabin crews. It said all customers affected had already been informed and offered refunds or rebooking.

It called on Spanish unions to return to talks and warned that “the closure of loss-making winter bases in the Canary Islands will not be reversed by these pointless strikes”.

Separately, Balpa said there were currently no talks planned to end a separate dispute with British Airways, where strikes are planned next month.

The union said it was awaiting a response from the BA chief executive, Alex Cruz, to its invitation to talks, following his “personal promise” to be involved.

Brian Strutton, Balpa general secretary, said: “This dispute will only be settled, and these strikes will only be called off, when BA improve their offer enough to satisfy their pilots. Until BA indicate that they are willing to do that, there is absolutely no point in any talks.”

A BA spokesman said: “We have continued to urge Balpa to return to talks since they issued strike dates, and this was reiterated again yesterday [Wednesday] afternoon.

“Our negotiating team is standing by and open to discussion, with Alex Cruz’s full support.”

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Balpa’s planned BA action appears to be having more impact, even before strikes take place, as the national carrier suffered more reputational damage at the weekend after many customers were emailed in error to be told that their flights were cancelled. Passengers were later told that the flights would operate after all – after some had rebooked travel.

BA pilots are due to strike on 9, 10 and 27 September.


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