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Ryanair strikes: when could they happen and can I claim compensation?

Hugh Morris
Ryanair suffered from strike action last year, too - 2003 Getty Images

Ryanair passengers are staring down the barrel of holiday disruption this summer, after the low-cost airline’s pilots said it was to ballot on strike action next week.

Members of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), which represents Ryanair pilots based in the UK, are in dispute with the airline over pay and conditions. They will vote next week, with the results announced on August 7, and possible industrial action following shortly after.

Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said: “Our Ryanair representatives have been trying to tackle some of the many issues that result from years of non-recognition of unions within Ryanair. But we have not been able to make any progress with Ryanair at all on any of our areas of concern. As usual with Ryanair, it’s their way or the highway, and we are not prepared to put up with that.”

Ryanair has not responded to a request for comment, but its chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said on Wednesday that he hoped to sign a labour agreement with Vereinigung Cockpit in Germany and that he did not expect strikes elsewhere in Europe. 

The potential walk-outs follow a series of strikes by staff of the Irish carrier in autumn last year, during which around 250 flights were cancelled. The airline also suffered industrial action last August.  

Ryanair is not the only airline preparing for the possibility of strikes. British Airways pilots with Balpa are also balloting for action, over pay. 

Three of the UK’s busiest airports could also be hit by strike action as the busiest travel season of the year gets underway.

Unite has threatened “chaos” at London Heathrow, with more than 4,000 staff, including security guards and engineers, planning to walk out in a dispute over pay. The union said it could “shut down the airport”.

The strike days are planned for July 26-27, August 5-6, and August 23-24 (the bank holiday weekend).

Meanwhile at London Gatwick, the UK’s second busiest airport, baggage scanners and terminal staff are considering action in August over pay. 

London Stansted, too, could be hit by strikes, with EasyJet staff due to down tools for 17 days this summer, over pay and conditions. The industrial action is planned to start on July 25 for four days, with further strikes on August 2-5, 9-12, 16-19 and 23-27. 

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.”

Will I get compensation?

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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