Ryanair strike hits 55,000 customers across Europe

The flight information departure board shows many canceled Ryanair flights at Skavsta Airport, in Stockholm. Ryanair pilots started a 24-hour strike Friday. (Reuters)
Updated 10 August 2018
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Ryanair strike hits 55,000 customers across Europe

  • Travel plans of 42,000 passengers to be hit in Germany
  • Airline operates more than 2,000 flights a day

Ryanair faced its worst one-day strike on Friday after a walk-out by pilots in five European countries disrupted the plans of an estimated 55,000 travelers with the budget airline at the height of the summer holiday season.

Ryanair, which averted widespread strikes before last Christmas by agreeing to recognize unions for the first time in its 30-year history, has been unable to quell rising protests over slow progress in negotiating collective labor agreements.

In response to unions serving strike notices, Ryanair had announced the cancelations in recent days of 250 flights in and out of Germany, 104 to and from Belgium and another 42 in Sweden and its home market of Ireland, where around a quarter of its pilots were staging their fifth 24-hour walkout.

The airline expected the travel plans of 42,000 travelers to be hit by the action in Germany alone, with the majority of passengers switched to another Ryanair flight and the remainder either refunded or rerouted.

“What I find unjustified is that the pilots draw the short straw, because people want to fly cheaply,” said Daniel Flamman, one of several passengers Reuters spoke to at Frankfurt airport who said they sympathized with the pilots.

“It’s annoying that it’s happening in the summer holidays, but it’s the only means they have.”

Ingolf Schumacher, pay negotiator at Germany’s Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) union, said pilots had to be prepared for “a very long battle” and that it could take months to push through change at Europe’s largest low-cost carrier.

The unrest is one of the biggest challenges to face long-term chief executive Michael O’Leary, who was once quoted as saying he would rather cut off his hand than recognize unions and on another occasion crossed a picket line of baggage handlers to help load a plane.

The outspoken O’Leary has in recent years tried to soften Ryanair’s abrasive public image, fearing it could be counter-productive for Europe’s most profitable airline.

The strike topped the 300 flights a day Ryanair had to cancel last month when cabin crews in Belgium, Portugal and Spain went on strike for 48 hours.
A Dutch court also rejected a case from Ryanair seeking to block pilots in the Netherlands from joining Friday’s strike, but the Irish airline said all of its flights there would run as scheduled.

Ryanair operates more than 2,000 flights a day, serving 223 airports across 37 countries in Europe and North Africa, and insists it will not change the low-cost model that transformed the industry and has made it Europe’s most profitable airline.

At Charleroi Airport, Belgium’s second largest and a major Ryanair hub in the region, striking staff gathered in the departure hall and held up banners reading “Ryanair must change- Respect us.”

“Ryanair is the only multinational in Belgium that doesn’t respect the Belgian law and that’s not normal,” said Didier Lebbe, a representative of union ACV-CSC, whose demands include securing its pilots pay when they are on stand-by.

Apologising to customers, Ryanair said in a statement that it took every step to minimize the disruption and called on striking unions to continue negotiations instead of calling any more “unjustified strikes.”

It has further angered unions by threatening to move jobs away from bases affected by the stoppages, and began carrying that out in Dublin where it cut its winter fleet by 20 percent and put over 300 employees on preliminary notice.

Ryanair has said that strike action will hit average fares because it takes up seats that it could otherwise have sold at a high last-minute price.


Gulf defense spending ‘to top $110bn by 2023’

Updated 15 February 2019
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Gulf defense spending ‘to top $110bn by 2023’

  • Saudi Arabia and UAE initiatives ‘driving forward industrial defense capabilities’
  • Budgets are increasing as countries pursue modernization of equipment and expansion of their current capabilities

LONDON: Defense spending by Gulf Arab states is expected to rise to more than $110 billion by 2023, driven partly by localized military initiatives by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, a report has found.

Budgets are increasing as countries pursue the modernization of equipment and expansion of their current capabilities, according to a report by analytics firm Jane’s by IHS Markit.

Military expenditure in the Gulf will increase from $82.33 billion in 2013 to an estimated $103.01 billion in 2019, and is forecast to continue trending upward to $110.86 billion in 2023.

“Falling energy revenues between 2014 and 2016 led to some major procurement projects being delayed as governments reigned in budget deficits,” said Charles Forrester, senior defense industry analyst at Jane’s.

“However, defense was generally protected from the worst of the spending cuts due to regional security concerns and budgets are now growing again.”

Major deals in the region have included Eurofighter Typhoon purchases by countries including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia is also looking to “localize” 50 percent of total government military spending in the Kingdom by 2030, and in 2017 announced the launch of the state-owned military industrial company Saudi Arabia Military Industries.

Forrester said such moves will boost the ability for Gulf countries to start exporting, rather than purely importing defense equipment.

“Within the defense sector, the establishment of Saudi Arabia Military Industries (SAMI) in 2017 and consolidation of the UAE’s defense industrial base through the creation of Emirates Defense Industries Company (EDIC) in 2014 have helped consolidate and drive forward industrial defense capabilities,” he said.

“This has happened as the countries focus on improving the quality of the defense technological work packages they undertake through offset, as well as increasing their ability to begin exporting defense equipment.”

Regional countries are also considering the use of “disruptive technologies” such as artificial intelligence in defense, Forrester said.

Meanwhile, it emerged on Friday that worldwide outlays on weapons and defense rose 1.8 percent to more than $1.67 trillion in 2018.

The US was responsible for almost half that increase, according to “The Military Balance” report released at the Munich Security Conference and quoted by Reuters.

Western powers were concerned about Russia’s upgrades of air bases and air defense systems in Crimea, the report said, but added that “China perhaps represents even more of a challenge, as it introduces yet more advanced military systems and is engaged in a strategy to improve its forces’ ability to operate at distance from the homeland.”