Ryanair strike Q&A: What should I do if my flight is cancelled?

Conor Pope: Ryanair passengers hit by strike must be offered refund or rerouting


What is going on at Ryanair now?

Its Irish-based Ryanair pilots have called another one-day strike on Friday, July 20th. 

What is the strike about?

A dispute over pilot seniority is at its core. All but one of the 95 Ryanair pilots based in Dublin who are also members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) have voted in favour of industrial action as they seek a seniority agreement covering base transfers, promotion, annual leave and other issue governed by length of service.

What have the airline said about the action?

It has called the strike unnecessary and says it has given Fórsa ( the union group representing IALPA) proposals on union recognition, base transfers, a seniority list for Irish pilots and annual leave. 

But surely all flights will be grounded if the pilots are on strike?

That is not how things work at Ryanair. The fractured nature of its employee network means that many flights could still take off. Some pilots are employed directly by the airline. Some are contractors and - effectively - self-employed. Of the airline’s 300 or so pilots operating out of Dublin, less than a third voted for the industrial action. However, those who have voted for the action are all captains and are essential to operate aircraft.

So when will I know if I am caught up?

If a stalemate persists, Ryanair will have to make alternative arrangements and it will have to start cancelling flights out of Ireland on the day of the strike. It has pledged to contact customers next Tuesday should the July 12th strike go ahead.

Could the strike widen?

That is always possible and it is a volatile time at the airline. The German pilots union says it Ryanair members are voting on a possible strike in a ballot that will run to the end of July, following what it called the failure of talks on improved pay and conditions. Trade union sources have said pilots in other European countries could follow suit.

I thought that Ryanair was fiercely anti-union?

It was - in fact it probably still is but times change. For many years it refused to negotiate with unions but in recent months it has been forced to change its policy and accept the reality of collective bargaining as pilots have grown more powerful as their skills have become more in demand.

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.

What if I can get a flight with another airline that gets me how sooner?

There has been a change in tone across airlines in recent months and where once they would not allow passengers facing long delays book with other airlines they tend to do so now but you should always check with Ryanair that the will cover the cost retrospectively and get that in writing.

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.

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