Ryanair strike Q&A: When will I know if my flight is affected?

If your flight is cancelled you must be offered a refund or a seat on the next available flight

Some Irish-based Ryanair pilots are to take pre-Christmas strike action. Photograph: PA

It hasn’t been a great few months for Ryanair but what is happening to it now?

Its Irish-based pilots will hold a one-day strike on Wednesday, December 20th after a majority of members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA) who are employed by the airline voted in favour of such a course in a secret ballot at the weekend.

On Tuesday, a branch of the trade union Impact, served Ryanair management with notice of the one-day strike which will see Irish-based directly-employed pilots, most of them captains withdraw their labour.

So does this mean all flights across the Ryanair network will be grounded?

No. It doesn’t even mean all Ryanair flights out of Dublin will be grounded, such is the fractured nature of its employee network.


Some pilots are employed directly by the airline. Some are contractors and - effectively - self-employed.

Some are members of Ialpa but many are not. Of the airline's 300 or so pilots operating out of Dublin, less than 100 have voted for the industrial action. However, those who have voted for the action are all captains and are essential to operate the aircraft.

What has the airline said about the strike threat?

It has said it is “surprised”. And it has claimed that next Wednesday’s action has the support of “less than 28 per cent of Ryanair’s over 300 Dublin pilots”.

It accepts “some disruption may occur” but claims it “will largely be confined to a small group of pilots who are working their notice and will shortly leave Ryanair, so they don’t care how much upset they cause colleagues or customers.”

So, will my flight next Wednesday be affected or not?

It is too early to say. The airline has not published any details of flight cancellations and it is not even certain any flights will be cancelled as a deal might be done before next Wednesday.

That is certainly in the best interests of the airline which has been forced to cancel hundreds of thousands of flights since September because of rostering problems and staff shortages.

I thought that Ryanair did not recognise unions?

Oh, it doesn’t. It has long said its pilots have a right to join a union - legally it has to say that - but it also says it has the right not to negotiate with them.

And it has never negotiated with them. In many ways that is at the heart of the current problems the airline is facing.

Ryanair pilots across Europe - including Ireland - are campaigning hard for a new collective bargaining system to replace the employee representative councils that negotiate for staff at each of the airline's 80-plus bases across Europe.

Italian pilots are planning a four-hour stoppage next Friday while the German Pilots Association has said that "from today on, strike action within Ryanair can be expected at any time".

So will a deal be done?

Well, Ryanair is not known for bending to the will of unions. Cormac Meehan of the Irish Travel Agents Association certainly seemed very concerned on Tuesday afternoon when he said the timing of strike, just five days before Christmas, was "very unsettling and worrying for those planning to travel over the holiday season". He said the industrial action could result "in huge disruptions for Irish travellers, in particular for families who may be returning home for Christmas or planning to holiday aboard."

What do I do if my flight is cancelled due to the strike?

Under EU Regulation 261 airlines must offer passengers affected by cancellations a full refund or a rerouting on the next available flight or at a later time that suits the passenger.

If you opt for a refund the airline’s responsibility to you ends. If you ask to be put on the next available flight then the airline must provide care and assistance until you can be accommodated on an alternative flight.

What does care and assistance mean?

If you are overseas and trying to get home - or indeed in Ireland and trying to get home - the airline must provide you with meals and refreshments.

If necessary it will have to cover the cost of hotel accommodation and transport between the hotel and the airport and you will have to be offered two free telephone calls and access to email.

What happens if my flight is not cancelled but I face a long delay?

If you are facing a delay the airline must also provide you with care and assistance.

If you are left hanging around in an airport it must cover reasonable cost of meals and refreshments. If your flight is delayed by more than five hours an airline must offer you the choice of continuing with your journey or a refund of the cost of your ticket.

If I am overseas and can’t get home, what can I do?

If the airline does not provide the care and assistance it is legally obliged to at the moment you need it you should make your own reasonable arrangements and retain all receipts and use them to claim back the reasonable expenses.

How do I claim back expenses?

Passengers should send copies (it is very important the original documentation is never sent in case it goes missing) of all receipts to the airlines on which they booked flights. Submissions should also include booking references, passenger names, original and new flight details.

Am I covered by my travel insurance?

It is possible but not likely. Most policies have a get-out clause and don’t cover industrial action.

Am I entitled to compensation outside of reasonable expenses from Ryanair?

That is most unlikely. If you are affected by flight cancellations or long flight delays as a result of this strike action and seek compensation it is only likely to be granted after an investigation.

irishtimes.com/life-and-style/abroad/have-your-say-will-you-be-affected-by-the-ryanair-strike-1.3326219Opens in new window ]

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor