Pitting passengers against its very own cabin crew, Ryanair has today revealed plans to pro-actively cancel around 600 flights during a two-day strike which will be held by Ryanair cabin crew in Spain, Portugal and Belgium on 25th and 26th of July. The airline said in a statement that some 100,000 passengers would be impacted by the cancellations.
“While deeply regretted, these cancellations will affect approximately 12% of Ryanair’s customers on Wednesday and Thursday next,” the airline said. Flights to and from Spain will be worst impacted with around 200 flights cancelled on each day of the strike. Portugal and Belgium will both see around 100 flights cut from schedules during the 48-hour strike.
Late last year, Ryanair agreed to recognise unions for the first time in its history but progress has been slow ever since. So far, the airline has only managed to strike recognition deals with unions in two countries – the United Kingdom and Italy.
Negotiations with those unions over work agreements continue but there are said to be significant hurdles still to overcome.
Along with providing information on rebooking options for the passengers who are set to be affected by these cancellations, Ryanair also took the opportunity to hit out at the unions and its cabin crew. Reeling off a long list of benefits provided by the airline, Ryanair said the strikes would “achieve nothing.”
“Given that Ryanair cabin crew enjoy great pay – up to €40,000 per annum (in countries with high youth unemployment) – industry-leading rosters (14 days off each month), great sales commissions, uniform allowances, and sick pay, these strikes are entirely unjustified and will achieve nothing other than to disrupt family holidays,” explained Kenny Jacobs, the airline’s chief spokesperson.
Ryanair to cancel up to 300 of 2,400 daily flights next Wed 25 and Thurs 26 to minimise disruption to customers from unnecessary strikes by some cabin crew in Belgium, Portugal and Spain: pic.twitter.com/qTsmq3lCPI
— Ryanair (@Ryanair) July 18, 2018
Yet, while Ryanair was keen to focus on the benefits its cabin crew enjoy, the airline seemingly failed to address the three main reasons why the unions in Spain, Portugal and Belgium have actually called strikes:
- Provide local employment contracts based on the laws of the country in which the cabin crew member is based,
- Start negotiations with unions without first imposing restrictions or demands,
- Treat all Ryanair cabin crew the same – whether employed through a third-party recruitment agency or directly.
At present, all Ryanair cabin crew sign Irish employment contracts but critics say these provide fewer rights than what they might otherwise enjoy with a locally agreed contract. Last September, Ryanair lost a court case in which judges agreed with Belgium cabin crew who wanted a local court to decide on employment disputes. The airline had argued that Irish courts should make decisions on Irish contracts.
Ryanair, however, said the so-called “Mons” ruling would not alter its Irish employment contracts.
Unions have also claimed that Ryanair has made unfair demands before it will even enter into negotiations with cabin crew unions, and on top of that, the majority of Ryanair’s cabin crew are employed via a third-party employment agency – and as such, aren’t guaranteed the benefits which Ryanair has boasted about.
That, though, didn’t stop Ryanair posting a document it called a briefing note, “Ryanair Cabin Crew – The Facts” on its official Twitter account. Here are the “facts” as claimed by Ryanair:
“Ryanair cabin crew earn up to €40,000 p.a., more than double the “living wage”
This figure is made up of a number of factors, including sales commission. It’s true, that some very high performing crew who are directly employed by Ryanair might achieve this figure but the majority of staffers are employed on a lower wage by third-party agencies.
“Ryanair cabin crew work a fixed 5-on/3-off roster, the equivalent of a bank holiday weekend every week.”
The actual roster is true – providing a high level of stability for crew members. What Ryanair fails to take into account is the number of hours crew members are working – up to 12-hours every day. Nor does Ryanair mention the exceptionally early starts, late finishes and tiring effect of working multiple flight sectors every day.
“Ryanair cabin crew cannot fly (by law) more than 900 years p.a.”
This is true. And its the case for cabin crew across Europe. But with many Ryanair working many short sectors every day, it doesn’t take into account the fatiguing effect of this type of work. Nor does it take into account the extra work that Ryanair cabin crew do on the ground – like cleaning aircraft.
“Ryanair cabin crew enjoy rosters that exceed all EASA minimum rest requirements”
Many of EASA’s rules are designed for crew working long-haul missions but airlines do have to make sure staff don’t work too many hours in a day and are given enough time off between shifts. Ryanair doesn’t say how far above the minimum requirements its rosters go.
“Ryanair cabin crew receive training, a new joiners allowance of €750 and a daily training expense payment of €28”
“Ryanair cabin crew receive an annual allowance of €400 after their first year of employment to cover incidental costs such as uniform, medicals, IDs”
In the past, Ryanair came in for heavy criticism for making cabin crew pay thousands of Euros to undertake initial training, as well as paying for their own uniform. This is a positive move but insiders say Ryanair has offset these benefits with a lower base salary that puts new crew in a worse position than what they were before.
“Ryanair cabin crew receive paid and unpaid leave as they wish”
“Ryanair cabin crew receive sick pay as standard”
Critics dispute Ryanair’s claim that crew can take unpaid leave. With staff shortages and a busy summer schedule, it’s also very hard to believe that crew can take leave “as they wish”. Insiders also claim staff are put under intense pressure to avoid taking sick leave.
“Ryanair cabin crew are incentivised to sell onboard with industry-leading sales bonuses (10%)”
This statement doesn’t mention the minimum sales targets given to cabin crew. An expectation which they are expected to meet or exceed on every flight – failure to meet these tough sales targets can result in disciplinary action.
“Ryanair cabin crew receive a guaranteed 2-year contract with an offer of permanent contract thereafter”
This is a positive benefit of working for Ryanair – especially in an industry where some airlines are still only offering contracts that last barely 6-months. However, all new cabin crew are employed via a third-party agency and as a result, don’t enjoy as many benefits or rights as permanent employees.
“Ryanair cabin crew receive access to staff travel”
This is somewhat of a mute point and discounted staff travel hasn’t been mentioned by any of the unions or other groups who are calling for better working conditions for Ryanair cabin crew.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.