In recent months, we have received information concerning planned strike action by Ryanair employees. Recently, due to staff shortages on the weekend of April 22-24, 2022, the Irish carrier announced that it was cancelling all flights to Brussels airports operated by Belgian staff. As a result of this situation, passengers encountered significant difficulties, and they were notified of the cancelled flights only a few days before the planned departure date.
Two months later, Ryanair's unions are announcing cabin crew strikes to take place in June / July in several European countries. It is extremely likely that we will be faced with problems associated with delayed and cancelled flights, which will affect travellers planning holidays abroad. In such a case, will passengers then be entitled to compensation? What are the general conditions for obtaining compensation for a cancelled flight due to strike action? Here we will explain.
According to Reuters news, Ryanair staff have announced strikes in five European countries: Belgium, Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy. According to union members, Ryanair does not respect basic labour rights under national labour law. This applies to salaries, working conditions and staff shortages. Spanish workers are to protest the longest, with Spanish Ryanair cabin crew planning to strike between June 24th and July 2nd.
Union members estimate that around 2,000 workers will take part in the strikes. If these calculations are correct and the strikes are successful, passengers will face huge difficulties at the airports. A Ryanair spokesman said that in order to avoid a crisis, the trade unions should go back to the negotiating table and not cause a situation that would make life difficult for passengers.
Is there a chance, however, that the parties will reach an agreement? As a result of April's strike in Belgium, all weekend flights to and from Brussels-Charleroi and Brussels-Zaventem airports operated by Ryanair staff were cancelled. It is worth adding that this is not the first such case. In the years 2017-2019, as a result of a cabin crew strike, the Irish carrier's network was paralysed several times. Ryanair once again found itself in a very uncomfortable situation.
In order to prove whether passengers are entitled to compensation in such a situation, one should refer to the judgement of the CJEU of 23rd March 2021, in which the European Court of Justice ruled against SAS Scandinavian Airlines. According to this ruling, a strike organised by an airline workers' union to secure a pay rise does not fall within the concept of "extraordinary circumstances". Importantly, the carrier is also obliged to pay compensation when the strike is organised under the conditions specified in the legislation of European Union member states.
According to the above, if industrial action causes a flight to be cancelled or delayed and the passenger is informed less than 14 days before the departure date, he or she is entitled to compensation under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004. It is irrelevant whether the airline has taken all reasonable measures.
Compensation amounts for cancelled and delayed flights are predetermined by law. The amount depends on the distance between the departure airport and the destination airport. Under current regulations, in the event of a cancelled or delayed flight, as well as being denied boarding, passengers are entitled to compensation in the amount of:
- 250 euro per person – for flights of a distance up to 1500 kilometres;
- 400 euro per person – for flights of a distance between 1500 kilometres and 3500 kilometres (this also applies for flights further than 3500 kilometres (in situations where both the departure and arrival airport are on the territory of the EU);
- 600 euro per person – for flights of distances over 3500 kilometres (in situations where at least one airport – departure airport or arrival airport – is outside the EU).
The aforementioned Belgian crew strikes, which took place on April 22nd–24th, led Ryanair to inform passengers about the cancellation of flights less than 14 days before their scheduled date of departure. Consequently, they are entitled to compensation of at least 250 euro.
In the event of a similar situation arising in any country planning protests, passengers will be able to claim compensation from Ryanair for a cancelled flight. The same rules will apply if your flight is delayed by more than 3 hours as a result of strike action.
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