Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary warns of sum­mer ‘melt­down’ in the face of staff short­ages and strikes

Irish Independent - - Business - John Mul­li­gan

RYANAIR CEO Michael O’Leary has urged the Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion, as well as the UK and Ger­man govern­ments, to ur­gently tackle is­sues in­clud­ing staff short­ages im­pact­ing air traf­fic con­trol ser­vices. He claimed the ser­vices are fac­ing a “melt­down” this sum­mer.

The car­rier said a to­tal of 117,000 flights were de­layed last month, with more than 71,000 of those de­lays due to air traf­fic con­trol (ATC) strikes and staff short­ages, it claimed.

It added that weather de­lays ac­counted for the re­main­der of de­lays – a four-fold in­crease in the num­ber notched up dur­ing May 2017.

Ryanair claimed that al­most 60pc of the weather de­lays took place on Fri­days and Satur­days, “which sug­gests that ATC providers are us­ing ad­verse weather to cover their staff short­ages”.

The air­line can­celled more than 1,000 flights last month, which it said were al­most all due to ATC staff short­ages and strikes. EasyJet can­celled al­most 1,000 flights last month.

Mr O’Leary, pic­tured, said an­other planned ATC strike in France this week­end will hit thou­sands of flights and hol­i­day­mak­ers.

“Many of these flights don’t even touch France, yet they will be dis­rup­tive be­cause French ATC re­quires air­lines to can­cel over­flights while they pro­tect French do­mes­tic routes,” he said, adding that ATC staff short­ages are par­tic­u­larly acute in the UK and Ger­many.

“These dis­rup­tions are un­ac­cept­able, and we call on the UK and Ger­man govern­ments, and the EU Com­mis­sion, to take ur­gent and de­ci­sive ac­tion to en­sure that

ATC providers are fully staffed and that over­flights are not af­fected when na­tional strikes take place, as they re­peat­edly do in France.”

Mr O’Leary claimed that un­less ur­gent ac­tion was taken, “thou­sands of more flights and mil­lions of pas­sen­gers will be dis­rupted” over the sum­mer, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing July and Au­gust. Ear­lier this month, IAG chief ex­ec­u­tive Wil­lie Walsh told a CAPA avi­a­tion con­fer­ence in Syd­ney that air traf­fic con­trol strikes pose a big­ger risk to air­lines in Eu­rope than ris­ing fuel costs. IAG owns Aer Lin­gus, Bri­tish Air­ways, Level, as well as Span­ish car­ri­ers Ibe­ria and Vuel­ing.

“From a Eu­ro­pean con­text, the thing most im­pact­ing is ATC strikes and the on­go­ing ATC en­vi­ron­ment, which is a mess,” he said. “It’s de­stroy­ing traf­fic through Eu­rope.”

A4E, a Eu­ro­pean air­line in­dus­try or­gan­i­sa­tion whose mem­bers in­clude IAG and Ryanair, has pre­vi­ously es­ti­mated the eco­nomic cost of air traf­fic con­trol strikes in the Eu­ro­pean Union was €13.4bn be­tween

2010 and 2017.

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