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Ryanair Dealing With Cabin Crew Strikes Across Europe

A further broad strike action against Ryanair has been recently announced by the secretary of the Belgian labour unions CNE. The strike is scheduled for the 28th of September 2018 and should involve the cabin crew employees of the airline in Italy, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and possibly also Germany. According to the media the strike may be even larger than the previous one occurred on 10 August 2018, that caused the cancellation of more than 600 flights throughout Europe and over 55 thousand passengers affected by the disruptions, and so becoming the biggest strike ever experienced by the low cost carrier so far. The main purpose of the new strike is to push Ryanair, once more, to increase basic salaries and sick pay up to what was defined “fair levels”, to apply employment conditions in the own language of each respective country and to base the contractual relationships on local laws rather than the Irish laws (more favorable from an employer perspective). Over the past weeks the management of the airline and the unions have had marathon talks in the attempt to resolve the issue, but to date they have not reached an agreement and so the frustration of the employees – complaining to feel themselves “squeezed like lemons” – has now resulted in the announced international strike at the end of September. The marketing director of Ryanair does not seem to be worried about the planned strike, as it foresees the failure of the initiative stating that “the majority of the flights will be normally operated and will carry the large part of the 400 thousand passengers expected on that day”. On the same side the company CEO (Michael O’Leary) recently said that he sincerely regrets for the service disruptions but the airline must fight to be able to maintain its low cost business model. From a consumers’ point of view, the attempt of Ryanair to deny commercial liability in order to avoid payment of compensation to passengers – by arguing that the strikes would constitute “extraordinary circumstances” beyond the control of the airline – appears weak and inconsistent with the majority of the EU Member States’ case law on Regulation (EC) No 261/2004. Although Recital 14 of the Regulation provides that extraordinary circumstances may occur ‘in cases of strikes that affect the operation of an operating air carrier’, the EU Court of Justice (EUCJ) previously held on the point that the circumstances referred to in Recital 14 are not necessarily and automatically grounds of exemption from the obligation to pay compensation. Consequently, it is necessary to assess, on a case by case basis, whether the events in question are, by their nature or origin, not inherent to the normal exercise of the activity of the concerned air carrier and if they are beyond its actual control. In Italy the local CAA (ENAC) – in its role as national enforcement body for Regulation 261/2004 – is currently investigating on the cancellation of certain Ryanair flights scheduled during the so called “guaranteed hours” (7am-10am/6pm-9pm). following several complaints by the Italian consumers’ association (CODACONS). *With the research contribution of Ms. Ramona Vidican and Ms. Simona Maria Cocuz, students at the Nicolae Titulescu University (Bucharest, Romania); trainees at Studio Pierallini under the Erasmus and Higher Education Traineeship Programs.

The article was written by L2b member, Marco Marchegiani, Associate with Studio Pierallini and published in the September 2018 issue of Aviation Journal.

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