Cabin crew working for Ryanair in Spain have voted to hold six days of strikes at the end of June and early July, potentially adding to the disruption affecting air travel across Europe.
The Spanish-based staff in the USO and SITCPLA unions will walk out for two three-day strikes from 24 June to 26 June and 30 June to 2 July.
Ryanair said it did not expect widespread disruption and claimed most crew would not support the planned action.
So far the airline, Europe’s biggest by passenger numbers, has escaped much of the turmoil affecting its rivals, particularly easyJet in the UK, and said it has not cancelled any flights because of its own staffing issues.
However, the Spanish unions now appear to be fixed on action, largely to pursue large increases to basic salaries after cuts during the coronavirus pandemic.
The general secretary of USO’s Ryanair section, Lidia Arasanz, said: “We have to resume mobilisation so that the reality of our situation is known and Ryanair is forced to abide by basic labour laws.”
The unions, speaking in Madrid, said they would look to coordinate action with other unions representing Ryanair staff in Belgium, France, Italy and Portugal, according to Bloomberg.
Ryanair played down the prospect of any threat to its summer flying, with the airline expecting to operate more flights in its peak season schedule than it did in 2019.
A spokesperson said: “Ryanair has negotiated collective agreements covering 90% of our people across Europe. In recent months we have been negotiating improvements to those agreements as we work through the Covid recovery phase. Those negotiations are going well and we do not expect widespread disruption this summer.”
Despite its assurances, Ryanair has been forced to cancel hundreds of flights through industrial action by its staff, with the two years before the pandemic marked by disruptive walkouts, including UK pilot strikes in 2019 that followed crew walkouts across Europe in 2018.
The airline operates out of more than 20 airports, including nine bases, in Spain, with more than 70 domestic routes as well as the large international tourist trade.
Ryanair said that it had reached an agreement with CCOO, which it described as “Spain’s largest and most representative union”, and was “delivering improvements for Spanish-based cabin crew and reinforcing Ryanair’s commitment to [their] welfare”.
It said that announcements of strike action “by the much smaller USO and SITCPLA unions are a distraction from their own failures to deliver agreements after three years of negotiations, and we believe that their strike calls will not be supported by our Spanish crews”.
The news could nonetheless fuel more anxiety for passengers, who have seen rivals such as British Airways and easyJet forced to cancel thousands of summer flights because of problems, mainly driven by labour shortages across the aviation industry.
Long airport queues and ground-handling and air traffic problems have contributed to delays and cancellations. Demand for flying has bounced back rapidly after the pandemic but businesses have been unable to quickly rehire staff, after thousands were laid off.