‘This company mocks us’: MEPs give Ryanair a kicking

In Strasbourg speakers accuse airline of ‘slavery’ conditions and of misleading people

Ryanair is likely to come in for more flak at the Oireachtas committee on transport on Wednesday. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Ryanair is likely to come in for more flak at the Oireachtas committee on transport on Wednesday. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

 

The working conditions at Ryanair were variously described as “problematic” and likened to “slavery” by members of the European Parliament who lined up to eviscerate the airline at a plenary session in Strasbourg on Tuesday evening.

The airline was accused of not providing passengers with complete information and deliberately misleading them as to their rights after it announced plans to cancel tens of thousands of flights from the start of September and the middle of March next year.

MEPs from all over the EU condemned the airline for “making it virtually impossible to lodge complaints” after the programme of flight cancellations.

“This company mocks us,” said Romanian MEP Maria Grapini, who pointed out that the chamber had expressed “unanimity” in criticising the airline.

Fine Gael MEP for Ireland Midlands North-West Mairead McGuinness said she was sure Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary was listening and expressed the view that his “ears are burning and that is no harm”.

Ms McGuinness said the cancellations were on such a scale that “people did begin to question was there more behind this than simply a rostering error”. She said the airline “has work to do, and indeed, on connecting with passengers they have work to do, as all airlines have when there is a problem.

“We need to talk to a human being and perhaps that’s something that we could stitch into EU regulations,” she said.

No EU sanctions

European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc told the session she would not “speculate on the root cause of Ryanair’s decision” to cancel so many flights and ruled out EU-imposed sanctions.

She stressed that the rules “are really crystal clear. It is the responsibility of the Irish authorities to oversee Ryanair as an Irish airline and I am confident they are closely monitoring that Ryanair respects all its obligations if they discover wrongdoing. I’m also just confident they will act accordingly.”

Ms Bulc said she saw “no reason to initiate any infringement procedures against Ireland and I’m confident they will do the work they have to do”.

Meanwhile the American union Allied Pilots Association has offered to support Ryanair crews if they want to form a union or join the Irish Airlines Pilots’ Association, according to the US union’s president, Daniel Carey, who met some of Ryanair’s employees in Dublin last week.

“We’ve been following the Ryanair model and we don’t want indirect employment to come to America,” Mr Carey said.

Oireachtas flak

Ryanair is likely to come in for more flak at the Oireachtas committee on transport on Wednesday. However, any criticism will not be directly heard by the company’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, who declined an invitation to appear before the committee, insisting all of his time is focused on resolving the recent crisis.

Committee members had asked Mr O’Leary to appear before them to detail the cause of the flight cancellations and the effect on consumers.

The airline has announced the cancellation of 462 flights from Dublin Airport over the winter period as part of the cancellation of an extra 18,000 flights, which will affect 400,000 customers. The airline cancelled 22 Dublin flights a week from November 1st until March 24th, a period of 21 weeks.

This amounts to the withdrawal of some 87,000 seats and comes on top of the 319,000 seats the airline cancelled two weeks ago covering the six weeks to the end of October.

The winter routes affected will be Dublin to Birmingham, Paris Beauvais, Barcelona, Bucharest, Madrid, Warsaw Modlin, and Cracow.

Members had sought to question the chief executive about how the crisis unfolded and how the airline could ensure a similar problem would not recur.