Ryanair pilots are threatening to cause festive travel turmoil by holding a series of strikes before Christmas.
Families going away for the holidays and others trying to get home could find themselves delayed or even stranded.
Ryanair’s pilots across Europe are demanding that bosses recognise their trade unions and enter negotiations to improve pay, contracts and working conditions.
Irish Ryanair pilots have announced they will go on strike on 20 December, potentially causing travel chaos just five days before Christmas
Tension between the airline and senior flight crew mounted after the budget airline was forced to cancel 20,000 flights in September.
The company blamed a shortage of pilots, with many leaving for better pay and conditions at rival airlines.
Pilots at Ryanair’s Italian operation are to hold a one-day strike on Friday.
Yesterday, pilots who are members of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) served the company with notice of a one-day strike on Wednesday next week – just five days before Christmas.
The staff involved are a minority of Ryanair’s pilots in Dublin – about 28 per cent, but they are mostly high-ranking captains who are key to the operation of schedules.
The Irish pilots backed industrial action by a margin of 94 per cent to 6 per cent in secret ballots.
Ryanair pilots in Germany and Portugal also plan to hold strikes, although the dates have not been set.
The Irish pilots union is a branch of the trade union Impact, which said its strike action will ‘either disrupt flights or generate substantial costs to the airline’.
Eighty-four pilots out of 300 based at Dublin airport will refuse to fly for one day in a dispute over pay and working conditions. Pictured: Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary
The union says airline management has refused to enter direct negotiations with Ialpa as the sole independent representative body for pilots.
The airline refuses to recognise unions and insists that any discussion of pay and working conditions should be conducted through management-controlled ‘employee representative councils’.
Impact said: ‘The action will have impact because planes cannot legally or safely fly without a captain.’
Spokesman Ashley Connolly said Ryanair was the only Irish airline that refused to recognise independent pilot representatives, adding: ‘Experienced pilots continue to leave the airline in droves.
‘This dispute is about securing a safe space for negotiations, with independent representation that pilots can have confidence in.’
Ryanair bosses appeared unwilling to compromise, warning that any pilots who failed to turn up for work would lose favourable rosters and other benefits.
The German pilots’ union, Vereinigung Cockpit, said it would not rest until Ryanair agrees to a collective labour agreement, adding: ‘We want to agree contracts with Ryanair. We see no other way.’
It said it could strike at any time but promised not to walk out between the afternoon of December 23 and midnight on December 26.