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Analysis. As many as 400,000 passengers were affected by the flight cancelations. Meanwhile, Ryanair workers are fleeing for other airlines, and the company is in damage control.

Ryanair cancels flights, angering passengers and unions

A storm descended upon Ryanair on Monday after CEO Michael O’Leary announced the cancellation of 50 flights a day until Oct. 31. They have already notified the 400,000 passengers affected by email, with the related alerts.

Consumers’ associations have interpreted the rage of travelers and a record amount of reimbursements and damages has been estimated — up to €35 million, according to O’Leary himself. The policy calls for sanctions for the company, and the E.U. Commission has asked for respect for the customers’ rights.

But the unions have also expressed their opinions, as the drastic cut is caused by the poor organization of vacation time, in addition to the loss of pilots for competitors who offer better compensation. Once again, this puts under the magnifying glass the working conditions of the most famous low-cost airline.

The stock, listed in the Dublin stock exchange, has lost nearly 2 percent after the news. O’Leary explained that Ryanair is currently operating about 2,500 flights per day, and that the expected cancellation of about 50 flights per day represents only 2 percent of the total turnover. A calculation that will certainly not calm down the infuriated passengers. “We sincerely apologize to customers whose travel is canceled and we assure them that we have done our utmost to make sure that most of them are on alternative flights on the same day or the following one,” said the manager.

They are talking about the reimbursement of the full ticket or relocations to flights at different times. The routes most affected by the cancellations will be those to Fiumicino and Bergamo. In any case, according to the rules of air transport, passengers can claim up to €600 of damages, depending on the length of the route.

Brussels expects Ryanair will “respect” the passenger rights rules, said the E.U. Transport Commission spokeswoman Enrico Brivio. “Thanks to the E.U.,” he added, “passengers whose flights are canceled have a number of rights, including the right to reimbursement, re-routing, as well as assistance and, in certain circumstances, the right to damages.”

In regards to the union issue, in fact, it is the hottest and most difficult to resolve in the short term. O’Leary explained that “there is no shortage of pilots”; at the same time, he announced a “loyalty bonus,” in an effort to not let them “run away.” Lufthansa and Iag were accused of having undertaken a very aggressive hiring campaign against Ryanair pilots, in addition to Norwegian, who had long been in O’Leary’s target. It must be said that the latter is a more virtuous company than the Irish carrier, since it signed its first contract with the Italian unions to protect its staff working in our country.

In contrast, Ryanair has always put Ireland at the center of its trade union relations, denying staff the benefits and pension contributions applicable in the countries where they are based. Just a few days ago, however, a ruling was issued that may disrupt this system: the EU Court of Justice has ruled that some employees based in Charleroi will have Belgium as the applicable jurisdiction, and not Ireland, as the company indicates on their contracts.

In Spain, the Ministry of Development has moved to ensure that passenger rights are respected. In Italy, all consumer associations have announced a battle. The Democratic Party has asked Enac [the Italian Civil Aviation Authority] and the Transport Authority to intervene “with fines and also assess if it merits the suspension of the license.” Also the party Sinistra Italiana asked for this penalty.

The union FILT-CGIL notes, with some irony, that “Ryanair has found that employees are entitled to vacation time and that pilots can go where they are best paid.” For FILT-CGIL, “it is vital to respect the workers’ right to off time.”

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