Ryanair cabin crew strike hits thousands of travellers in Europe

Ryanair cancels 250 flights as strikes in six countries hit services

Europe's largest low-priced carrier has faced a string of strikes since it recognised trade unions for the first time in December, damaging bookings and forcing it to consider cutting short-term growth plans if labour unrest continues.

Cabin crews in Germany, Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy, as well as pilots in Germany, began a 24-hour walkout as airspace opened on Friday.

Trade unions have claimed that Friday's 24-hour stoppage will be the biggest strike in the Irish carrier's history.

Some of the airline's pilots in Germany are also taking part in industrial action today.

Ryanair has struggled with staff strike action and flight cancellations since the summer of 2017, when a staff rostering mistake meant numerous flights were unable to operate, affecting some 400,000 passengers.

"We find this strike... unreasonable and somewhat out of sync with the progress we thought we were having", Ryanair COO Peter Bellew said in a conference call with journalists on Thursday.

They say employing staff under Irish law inconveniences workers and affects their ability to access social security benefits.

Earlier this month Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said the disputes had caused "minimal disruption" and he pledged not to "roll over".

In Portugal, 13 morning flights were cancelled and in the Netherlands, 14 of 22 flights were cancelled.

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The German pilots' union said it could not rule out further strikes.

Passengers on cancelled flights were contacted on Tuesday to advise them of their options.

Three Italian unions representing mainly cabin and ground crew staged a four-hour strike because they were not included in contract negotiations with Ryanair.

A spokesman for Ryanair said the company has already written to the unions in Belgium and all other EU countries, offering to implement local law, social taxes and to accept local court jurisdiction.

Another indication of the company's rethink on contracts came on Thursday when it announced two new bases in France.

"Respecting EU law is not something over which workers should have to negotiate, nor is it something which can be done differently from country to country".

As many as 35,000 Ryanair passengers will be facing travel chaos this afternoon after the airline was forced into cancelling 250 flights as a result of strike action.

Two aircraft will be based at both Marseille and Bordeaux and will offer a total of 64 routes and handle 3.5 million passengers a year.

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