Ryanair strike in Spain kicks off with hardly any cancelled flights

The first of the six days of strike action called by Ryanair’s cabin crew in Spain began on Friday with a much smaller impact than expected for travellers, as only a handful of flights from Belgium were cancelled.  

In Spain, where Ryanair employs 1,900 people, no flights were cancelled except those heading to Belgium. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Irish low-cost airline Ryanair on Friday decided to operate 100 percent of its scheduled flights to and from Spain, considering all of them protected by the minimum services decree approved by Spain’s Ministry of Transport.

The only flights which could not take off were those heading to Spain from Belgium, where the work stoppage led Europe’s biggest budget airline to cancel some of the 127 flights to and from Charleroi airport (near Brussels) that are scheduled from Friday to Sunday.

Spain’s Transport Ministry has argued there needs to be a balance between the “right to strike” and the “interest of travellers”.

However, it only ordered 73 to 82 percent of domestic flights to and from Spain’s mainland and its two archipelagos – the Canary and Balearic Islands – to be kept, and between 53 percent and 58 percent of its internal mainland flights to go ahead.

Unions said Ryanair went beyond what was required and forced staff to maintain 100 percent of flights, adding that they would take Ryanair to court as a result.

They also reported that the budget carrier summoned 80 percent more workers than on a normal day to carry out “imaginary” shifts.

“The company informed staff that all flights were subject to the minimum service, and threatened them with disciplinary action,” Ernesto Iglesias of local USO told reporters at Madrid airport.

The airline was not “respecting the law,” he added.

Security officers stand guard as Ryanair employees gather during a strike at Adolfo Suarez Madrid Barajas airport Madrid on June 24, 2022.  (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has been dismissive of the strikes. “We operate two and half thousand flights every day,” he said earlier this month in Belgium.

“Most of those flights will continue to operate even if there is a strike in Spain by some Mickey Mouse union or if the Belgian cabin crew unions want to go on strike over here,” he told journalists.

Ryanair cabin crew unions in Portugal and Belgium have also called a three-day strike starting on Friday, and in Italy and France on Saturday.

The strikes come as air travel has rebounded since Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted.

But many airlines, which laid off staff during the pandemic, are having trouble rehiring enough workers, forcing them to cancel flights. That includes easyJet, which has been particularly hard hit by employee shortages.

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Ryanair cabin crew in Spain begin latest round of strike action

Ryanair cabin crew in Spain begin their third round of summer strike action on Monday.

Ryanair cabin crew in Spain begin latest round of strike action

Ryanair’s Spanish cabin crew begin their latest round of strike action on Monday, the third this summer, which threatens to last into the New Year after the Irish budget airline refused to negotiate a new collective agreement with staff.

With the latest industrial action set officially to last until January 7, 2023 USO and Sitcpla unions representing 1,600 workers from Ryanair, Crewlink and Workforce companies will begin 24-hour strike action from Monday to Thursday throughout the week moving forward.

During the first two weeks alone, it is anticipated that 1.4 million passengers will be affected – an average of 130,600 travellers every single day.

The strikes follow walkouts at the end of June that lasted throughout much of July and caused severe cancellations and delays at Ryanair’s operation bases in Spain, particularly at Barcelona’s El Prat airport and in Palma de Mallorca.

READ MORE: Ryanair reach deal with pilots in Spain but cabin crew strike continue

Predicted to last until January, the staff walkouts will affect travel to and from Spain during both the August and Christmas peak periods – times when traditionally there’s usually high levels of air traffic and demand.

Spain’s Ministry of Transport has set minimum services between 68 percent and 85 percent on domestic flights, and from 36 percent to 60 percent on international flights and domestic flights over five hours.

The strikes come at a time of European-wide travel chaos, with many of the major European airports suffering cancellations and delays due to high consumer travel demand following the COVID-19 pandemic, contractual disputes between anything and everything from cabin crew to pilots, and a shortage of staff after swathes of airport workers were let go as part of cost cutting drives during the pandemic.

During the first twelve days of the upcoming strike, Ryanair has, as of now, 4,998 flights scheduled at its Spanish airports. Ryanair flights operate, and moving forward could be delayed or cancelled, to and from Madrid, Malaga, Barcelona, Alicante, Seville, Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, Girona, Santiago de Compostela and Ibiza.