Ryanair hit with first strike as pilots walk off job in Germany

Ryanair, the largest budget airline in Europe, faced its first strike in the company’s 32-year history as pilots walked off the job.

Check-in desks are empty in the terminal during a four-hour pilot's strike of Irish airline Ryanair at Frankfurt Hahn Airport in Hahn, Germany on Friday. Photo by Joerg Halisch/EPA
Check-in desks are empty in the terminal during a four-hour pilot’s strike of Irish airline Ryanair at Frankfurt Hahn Airport in Hahn, Germany on Friday. Photo by Joerg Halisch/EPA

The Ireland-based company reported delays on nine of its 36 morning flights departing Germany from 5-9 a.m. Friday, but there were no cancellations during the four-hour walkout. The airline serves several cities in Germany, including Berlin, Cologne/Bonn, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich.

Pilots have split with the company in recent weeks over bids to earn union recognition and reach labor negotiations.

Ryanair said it was “grateful” to its pilots for “ignoring this Vereinigung Cockpit strike” during the busy holiday travel period.

The German union said more strikes could take place after Boxing Day but before Jan. 5.

The airline has offered to hold talks again before then.

Ryanair broke off the first scheduled talks this week because it only wanted to deal with pilots it employed, although the union is representing a contract pilot.

“They had to work all night to mitigate the consequences of the strike and there were nearly no consequences for the passengers,” Markus Wahl, a spokesman for the German union, Vereinigung Cockpit, said Friday in a New York Times report. “It was a win-win situation; we hit the company without hitting the passengers.”

Last week, the company agreed to recognize pilots’ unions for the first time.

Pilots in Ireland, Italy and Portugal have threatened to walk off the job.

“Ryanair’s public offer to conduct negotiations with V.C. can only be classified as a further publicity stunt,” Ingolf Schumacher, the head of the union’s industrial department, said in a statement. “Ryanair is trying to win time and attempting to delay the beginning of collective bargaining.”

Earlier this year, company threatened to cancel pilots’ vacation because of scheduling problems. Instead, Ryanair cut 20,000 flights.

By Allen Cone