One of the largest airlines in Europe is warning travelers that the summer season could bring even more delays and cancellations than in previous years because of ongoing air traffic control strikes.
Ryanair Chief Marketing Office Kenny Jacobs addressed media at a press conference at ITB Berlin on Thursday to explain the concern the airline has for the ongoing air traffic control issues plaguing Europe.
Jacobs said that it’s the biggest issue facing European airlines currently, and looking ahead to the busy summer travel season, it’ll be an even bigger issue. Last summer and through the past few months, Ryanair was forced to cancel hundreds of flights because of ATC staffing issues.
The ultra-low-cost airline also had plenty of its own staffing issues, too, with widespread strikes across Europe last summer and fall snarling its operations throughout the region. Ryanair pilots and cabin crew in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, Ireland, Sweden and the Netherlands all walked off the job to protest the carrier’s wages and labor conditions. Those strikes resulted in at least 1,000 canceled flights during the peak summer season. The airline also initially refused to compensate the nearly 200,000 passengers affected by its staff demonstrations, as mandated by European legislation EU261.
Ryanair has since settled with its crew members and paid compensation to its passengers, but it looks like the worst disruptions for its operations are yet to come.
“It will get worse in summer 2019,” Jacobs said. Ryanair is pushing Germany and other European countries that have seen high numbers of strikes to alter their policies in making sure ATC continues running.
Jacobs further emphasized that the issues have contributed to Ryanair’s two profit warnings, which stemmed from higher fuel costs, lower fares and an increase in the number of EU261 claims. Jacobs said that the amount Ryanair has had to dish out for EU261 claims for delayed and canceled flights was in large part because of ATC staffing issues. He thinks that the air traffic control governing bodies should be responsible for paying the EU261 claims. The carrier also paid significant compensation to flyers affected by its many crew strikes.
While the strike issues are still at the forefront of Ryanair’s operational outlook, Jacobs did say that great progress has been made in the negotiations with air traffic controllers — specifically in Belgium and Germany.
Featured image by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images.
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