Ryanair warns of flight delays over summer pilot strike

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
A Ryanair plane amid plans by pilots for strikes. Photo: Martin Meissner/AP

Ryanair (RYA.L) has said it “cannot rule out” some delays and changes for UK passengers, after its British pilots voted to go on strike this week.

The airline successfully applied to the high court in Dublin to secure a legal order preventing Irish pilots walking out, saying it would come as a “huge relief” to Irish passengers.

But the airline tweeted on Wednesday after another high court hearing in London over similar plans by British pilots that it did now expect “small flight delays and/or changes” for UK passengers this Thursday and Friday.

It said all flights to and from the UK would operate as scheduled, however, saying “the vast majority” of UK-based pilots had volunteered to fly on those days, with “significant disruption” unlikely.

Ryanair also hit out at the union representing pilots, and tweeted: “British pilots earning six-figure annual salaries should not be threatening the holidays of thousands of British passengers and their families (very few of whom earn over £170,000pa).”

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Barrister Paul Gott QC, heading Ryanair’s legal team had previously told the court in London the pilots’ proposed walkout would cause “enormous disruption” and risked “significant reputational damage” for the airline.

He said the company had felt it had “no realistic alternative” to taking the issue to court in a bid to seek an order preventing the walkout.

Gott argued in court the way the union representing British pilots had handled the vote for strike action failed to comply with the law.

In the British case, a majority of unionised pilots had voted by four to one for the strike at one of the busiest times of the year in a dispute over pay and conditions.

But the case was taken to the high court in London on Wednesday, after the airline sought an injunction just a day before the pilots’ planned action.

A further walkout has also been proposed in September.

Barrister Andrew Burns, leading the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) union’s legal team, said Ryanair had raised “trivial and immaterial” technicalities” to seek to prevent the strike.

Before the UK court case was heard on Tuesday, Ryanair said: “Balpa, who represent a small number of highly paid UK pilots should not be disrupting the return holiday flights of UK families later this week when Ryanair captains already earn £180,000 per annum and are now seeking unjustified pay increases of between 65% to 121%.”

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Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton had also said on Tuesday that it was “worrying” to see Ryanair continuing to sell tickets for the days when strikes could occur.

He had asked if passengers would receive compensation for any problems, and should be told “exactly where they stand.”