Sunseekers' flight options will be 'few and far between' if Ryanair's pilot strike goes ahead

Travel agencies say the industrial action is an ‘unnecessary distraction’ for their staff.

By Conor McMahon Deputy editor, Fora

MANY HOLIDAYMAKERS WILL struggle to secure alternative flights during the peak summer travel season if next week’s Ryanair pilots strike goes ahead, travel agents say.

Dublin-based pilots yesterday voted in favour of a 24-hour strike due to commence at 1am on Thursday, 12 July.

As it stands, Ryanair won’t make a decision on how many flights need to be cancelled until next Tuesday and has invited trade unionists back to the negotiations table for last-ditch talks the day before the planned industrial action.

Pat Dawson, CEO of the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA), said that deadline is “very late” for travellers to make alternative arrangements.

The fact that the strike is due to take place at the height of the busy summer travel season means “alternatives will be few and far between”, he told Fora.

“It’s an unnecessary disruption which we are very, very upset about. It’s disrupting our people and there is no clear decision about what’s going to be cancelled and not cancelled.”

It’s not known yet what routes will be affected on the day of the planned strike. Less than a third of Ryanair’s total complement of Ireland-based pilots voted for the industrial action

Dawson said travel agencies will “bat out” for customers to help them find alternative flights and accommodation if necessary, but the disruption is likely to distract agents from their day-to-day sales duties.

“For ITAA members, it’s an indirect cost. It ties people up from doing other work. They have to resolve this problem. Seeking out accommodation and flights takes time. Normally they’d be selling away.”

File Photo Ryanair pilots based in Ireland will today reveal the result of their ballot for strike action, amid frustration over the failure to reach agreement with the airline on issues including seniority and processes for promotions and annual leave. E
Source: Mark Stedman/

The recent spell of good weather at home is affecting agencies’ ability to push last-minute holiday bookings.

“They’re selling all day and every day. This is an unnecessary distraction, Dawson said.

He added that the ITAA is hoping the issue will be resolved before next week but is “not that confident”.

“It’s the first confrontation that the union has had with Ryanair in serious fashion. There will be people looking to score points.”

The planned industrial action would affect tourists coming into the country as well as those on outbound flights.

Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, CEO of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation, said Ryanair is “very important for inbound tourism”.

“A lot of the increase in European traffic (to Ireland) has been a result of new Ryanair routes. Therefore, anything that might affect those routes we would be concerned about. We’d encourage an amicable resolution to the dispute.”

Slow negotiations

Members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa), which is part of the trade union Fórsa, overwhelmingly voted in favour of industrial action due to take place on 12 July.

The union’s complaints centre around management’s approach to transferring pilots between its European and African bases. It is also seeking a new system to determine various issues such as the allocation of annual leave, base transfers and promotion.

Ryanair issued a notice to customers saying that it was “disappointed” with the outcome of the ballot and that it has tried on several occasions to meet with Fórsa but to no avail.

As previously reported by Fora, the airline has struggled to cut a deal with Dublin-based pilots after announcing its intention to recognise trade unions in December last year.

In a memorandum seen by this website in April, Ryanair’s chief people officer, Eddie Wilson, said the company had “made very little progress” after two meetings with Ialpa, which also represents Aer Lingus pilots.

In the note to staff, Wilson said at the time that Ryanair wouldn’t negotiate with Ialpa-Fórsa unless the organisation agreed to “negotiate for Ryanair pilots without the involvement of competitor airline pilots”.

Ryanair has previously clashed with both Ialpa and its president, Evan Cullen.

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