Ryanair pilots begin 48-hour strike – is my flight affected and can I claim compensation?

Oliver Smith
Ryanair suffered from strike action last year, too - 2003 Getty Images

Ryanair pilot have begun a 48-hour strike over pay and working conditions – the second of seven walk-outs planned for September. 

Members of the Balpa (British Airline Pilots' Association) union are leading the strike on Wednesday and Thursday over issues including pensions and maternity benefits, with further 24-hour walk-outs scheduled for September 21, 23, 25, 27 and 29. 

But the impact on Ryanair's services has been minimal. Some of the airline's flights departing the UK this morning have been delayed but up to an hour, but not one has been cancelled. 

A statement from Ryanair labelled the strikes "pointless", and said it was not expecting any strike-related disruptions on Wednesday. Furthermore, it said that during previous Balpa strikes (August 22-23 and September 2-4), "all Ryanair flights to and from UK airports operated as scheduled – with zero cancellations – thanks to the efforts of over 95 per cent of our UK pilots who flew as rostered". 

The low-cost airline is facing another staff-related headache in Spain. Cabin crew in Spain are striking in protest at Ryanair's decision to close four bases in January: Las Palmas, Tenerife South, Lanzarote and Girona. Ryanair has blamed the decision, which will put the jobs of 500 workers at risk, on the ongoing woes of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The jet remains grounded following two fatal crashes in six months.

The Spanish strikes are planned for September 20, 22, 27 and 29, but disruption isn't expected to be significant.  

Ryanair isn't the only airline locked in an industrial dispute with its staff. Balpa members working for British Airways had their own 48-hour strike from September 9-10, one that caused far more disruption to services. The severity of the impact was down to the fact that around 90 per cent of BA pilots belong to the union, while the carrier's mixed fleet and long-haul services make organising cover more difficult. 

However, a second strike, planned for September 27, has been called off.

When are strikes taking place in September?

A small number of Ryanair pilots will walk out on September 18-19, 21, 23, 25, 27 and 29. Disruption to flights has been minimal.

A Spanish cabin crew strike is planned for September 20, 22, 27 and 29.

Am I entitled to a refund if my flight is cancelled?

Yes. European Union regulations require airlines to offer you either a full refund of the unused parts of your tickets, or to re-route you to your destination, as soon as possible. It may also allow you to rebook your flights for a later date at no extra cost. 

It is worth noting that should you still want to travel after your flight has been cancelled, airlines are obliged to help you to your destination as soon as you want, even if that means being booked onto another carrier.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says: "Although most airlines will book you onto another of their flights to the same destination, if an alternative airline is flying there significantly sooner then you may have the right to be booked onto that flight instead. You can discuss this with your airline."

Passengers due to fly on the day of a planned strike cannot get a refund until their flight has been cancelled outright. 

Will I get compensation?

It is unlikely. Airlines are not liable to pay the additional cash compensation set out by EU regulations because they would not consider themselves directly responsible for the disruption.

If you receive less than seven days' notice of a cancellation, you may be able to claim on the timings of the alternative flight.

The CAA says: "If your new flight arrives more than two hours after the scheduled time of your original flight, you can claim €250 – no matter what time it departs. Otherwise, if your new flight arrives earlier than two hours after the scheduled time of your original flight, you can claim €125."

See here for our full guide to flight delay and cancellation compensation


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