Trouble on the horizon as British Ryanair pilots plan strike

The British Airline Pilots Association voted in favour of strike action for August and September, claiming that the Irish-owned airline had ignored their pleas while it continued on its relentless expansion, including in Malta

Ryanair strike set to happen in late August
Ryanair strike set to happen in late August

Members of Ryanair's British pilot union have voted to strike in a dispute over working conditions including pay, pensions and benefits, the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) confirmed.

The counterpart Irish pilots' union will decide tonight whether they would join the strike and would likely reserve different days than the British pilots for their industrial action. 

BALPA members in Ryanair have been asked by the association to take strike action between 22 and 23 August and 2 and 4 September. 

In the midst of this, Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary warned that the airline could cut down its staff by 500 pilots in September due to weaker business, high fuel costs and Brexit uncertainty. 

The European Cockpit Association (ECA) hit back at this, arguing it was little more than a "threat." In a statement it made on Friday, it mentioned Malta and its new business with Ryanair in the form of the Malta Air subsidiary to further highlight Ryanair's shortcomings.

“One year was sufficient for Ryanair to acquire and develop two new airlines – Malta Air and Ryanair Sun in Poland – and to buy a third one – Laudamotion in Austria,” said ECA Secretary General Philip von Schöppenthau. “But in all this time Ryanair has failed to negotiate long hoped-for Collective Labour Agreements (CLA) with its crew in several major countries. Improving relations with its employees clearly seems to have shifted to a lower place on the priority list.”

BALPA meanwhile confirmed that it had received no formal offer from Ryanair. "It is imperative that we resolve this dispute urgently to avoid strike action. No pilot wants to spoil the public's travel plans but at the moment it seems we have no choice."

O'Leary paid a visit to Malta in June to announce the launch of Malta Air, a subsidiary airline which will operate out of Malta using a fleet of six aircraft and which will increase to 10 over the next three years. Ryanair aircraft in Germany and Italy are also being registered in Malta through Malta Air.

Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi said that 350 new jobs will be newly created as part of this business deal while O'Leary told MaltaToday that such an airline would not conflict with Air Malta's objectives.

“Ryanair does not fly to Heathrow for example, but Air Malta does. So anyone looking to purchase a flight to London via Ryanair services will then encounter the Maltese airline,” he had said.

The repercussions of the British Ryanair pilots' strike on Malta International Airport are yet unknown. Considering Ryanair is the leading airline in terms of passenger numbers, beating Air Malta's numbers in 2018, and the nascent subsidiary airline, Malta is likely to be hard hit.

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