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After failing to reach agreement with Belgian pilots, Ryanair cancels dozens of weekend flights

15:07 22/07/2022

Ryanair is cancelling 69 flights that affect over 12,000 passengers this weekend after failing to reach an agreement with its Belgian pilots ahead of their planned strike.

The Belgian pilots are striking on 23 and 24 July due to their heavy workload and low wages, which they say fail to meet the minimum hourly wage required by Belgian law, making Ryanair noncompliant with labour legislation. 

The low-cost airline has been unwilling to budge during negotiations, even threatening to stop operating in Belgian airports entirely, and unions have sharply criticised management’s laissez-faire attitude towards the inconveniences passed on to customers.

A total of 69 flights have already been cancelled, VTM reports, including 59 at the airport in Charleroi and 20 at Brussels Airport at Zaventem. 

The flights concerned are those staffed by a Belgian crew. Flights still operating are ones staffed by crews from other countries who aren’t not participating in the strike, according to Brussels Airport spokesperson Nathalie Pierard.

One affected passenger hoping to return home from a holiday with her children said she’s now stuck in Spain an extra two days due to the cancellation and received notice of her cancelled flight less than a day in advance. 

“I feel abandoned by Ryanair,” she told De Morgen, pointing out that an hour before the flight was cancelled, there was no indication from the airline that anything was amiss. 

“I could still log in to pay for the extra seats,” she said, but now the airline is not responding to her requests for a refund: “The form is blocked and my name is not recognised.”

Belgian pilots feel ‘disrespected’ 

Pilots say they feel disrespected and deserve a pay raise after suffering a 20% reduction in wages during the pandemic that remains in effect, even though travel patterns have largely returned to normal. 

“Ryanair says activity is at 115% compared to 2019 levels, so nothing prevents a revaluation of wages,” said union representative Didier Lebbe.

He said that the budget airline signed agreements on wage increases with its French and Spanish pilots on Thursday, but that these agreements do not return pilots’ pay to 2020 levels until 2027.  

“I don't know why [those pilots] signed that, but it’s out of the question that similar agreements would be signed in Belgium,” Lebbe said, adding that Ryanair's management did not contact Belgian pilots' unions to negotiate wages.

 

Written by Helen Lyons