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Ryanair expects minimal disruption from planned strikes

By Padraic Halpin
FILE PHOTO: Ryanair logo is pictured ahead of a news conference by Ryanair union representatives in Brussels

By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ryanair expects minimal cancellations with affected passengers flying out at different times if pilots in Britain and Ireland go ahead with a two-day strike next week, the airline's chief people officer said on Thursday.

Ryanair staff unions in Ireland, Britain, Spain and Portugal have announced plans to strike in the coming weeks, a year after an initial wave of strikes over pay and conditions forced it to cancel hundreds of flights and hit its profits.

Members of its British pilot union, which the airline said represents half of its pilots there, voted last week to stage a two-day strike from Aug. 22, when directly employed pilots in Ireland also plan a strike.

Unionised Irish pilots represent less than half of Ryanair's pilots in its home market.

"Our hope is that we're going to cover the majority of the operation both in the UK and Ireland, and unless you hear from us, your flight is going ahead as normal," Eddie Wilson told Reuters in a telephone interview, adding that planned action by Portuguese cabin crew next week would be minor.

"We'll be protecting as a priority the summer destinations and there may be some cancellations on multi-frequency routes between Ireland, the UK or on UK domestics where people can make free changes, etc. There will not be travel chaos."


"OFF THE WALL"

Responding to the British Airline Pilots Association's call on Thursday to meet for mediated talks to resolve the dispute on pay and benefits, Wilson said Ryanair was still waiting on the union to reply to a legal letter stating it had to re-engage directly first, as per a deal struck last year.

Mediated talks broke down on Wednesday in Ireland, where a series of one-day strikes last year were quelled when concerns on transfers and promotions when settled.

Wilson said on Thursday that subsequent union claims for increases in total earnings of between 57% and 101% for some pilots were "off the wall," particularly at a time when "the world is falling apart aviation-wise."

Asked if there had been any impact on bookings, Wilson said that while talk of strikes could worry some potential customers, the holiday season of August is the time of the year where the airline has its highest number of advance bookings.

He also confirmed reports from unions that Ryanair is likely to close its base in Faro and two in the Canary Islands as part of plans to cut is presence on the ground in airports due to delays in the delivery of the grounded Boeing 737 MAX.

A final decision has yet to be made on how many bases, jobs and routes will be cut as a result, Wilson added.


(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Deepa Babington)