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New Ryanair routes and planned strikes announced at Charleroi airport

08:59 13/09/2023

Pilots for budget airline Ryanair are planning further strikes on 14 and 15 September at Charleroi airport over pay cuts, just as the carrier plans to launch seven new routes from Belgium.

CEO Michael O'Leary has notshied away from using strong language throughout the ongoing labour conflict, nor from talking to the press, to whom he recently described union leaders as “monkeys”.

“The pay rise for our pilots in Charleroi has been on the table for months – it’s the union that's blocking it,” he said at a recent press conference.

"Strikes have got the unions nowhere and will get them nowhere. They don't affect us, we let 60 to 70% of the flights concerned go ahead anyway.

"What's more, not all of our Belgian pilots support this strike. We have some very good pilots in Belgium. Unfortunately, they are lions led by a group of monkeys within the unions."

Pilots for Ryanair took a pay cut during the pandemic and have yet to see their wages return to pre-pandemic levels.

The budget carrier plans to fly from Belgium to seven new destinations this winter: Amman (Jordan), Cluj and Iasi (Romania), Milan (Italy), Nantes (France), Tirana (Albania) and Warsaw (Poland).

The frequency of 30 routes will also be increased, meaning Ryanair will operate 93 routes from Belgium with 17 aircraft based at Charleroi airport.

O'Leary said that this represented an investment in the hundreds of millions and will result in over 60 new jobs.

He visited the European Commission last week to present a petition with 1.5 million signatures from passengers asking the European executive to guarantee transit air traffic, even in the event of a strike by air traffic controllers in one of the member states.

France has been affected by numerous work stoppages of this kind in recent months and O’Leary said he hoped that Commission president Ursula von der Leyen would “finally take measures to protect transit air traffic and guarantee freedom of movement for travellers in Europe”.

Travellers in Belgium are already beneficiaries of a number of rights when it comes to disruptions caused by labour movements, and consumer protection agency Test Achats has released a guide to these in advance of the planned strikes.

“The upcoming strike by Ryanair pilots on 14 and 15 September will be the fourth of the summer. That's why it's vital to know what to do if you're affected and how to limit the consequences,” the agency said in an announcement on its website.

Its five-step guide calls for passengers to first wait for news from Ryanair and avoid imagining worst-case scenarios until they are sure their flight has been affected.

Next, passengers are advised to consider the alternative the airline is legally obliged to offer them. Ryanair’s offered alternative must include a stay in a hotel and transport to that hotel if an extra night is needed.

“If the airline does not do this, you can ask for a refund of the costs you have paid at a later date, as long as you remain reasonable,” Test Achats explained.

“Don't want to leave? Then you are entitled to reimbursement of your flight. But first make the claim.”

Making that claim is step three, which can be done online.

“As well as requesting a change of flight or a refund, you can also claim compensation of €250, €400 or €600 depending on the distance of the flight, provided that a strike by airline staff does not fall within the exceptional circumstances that an airline could invoke to avoid compensation,” the guide explains.

Travellers can also submit a claim via email or by mail, using the terms ‘EU 261 Claim BE’ in the subject line.

The fourth step is for travellers to contact their accommodation and hope for a good deal: “If you have booked a holiday home or hotel, you may arrive at your destination later than expected or even wish to cancel the booking – in this case, contact the establishment to report and explain the problem. With a bit of luck, you'll be able to count on the accommodation's goodwill.”

Charges related to cancellations will vary by establishment and the conditions agreed to when booking.

The fifth step is to contact other affected service providers, such as car rental agencies or organisers of excursions or activities booked for the trip. As with accommodations, cancellation policies will vary.

Written by Helen Lyons