RYANAIR strikes have begun in Spain after last-minute talks between unions and management failed.
Some 600 flights have been cancelled as cabin crew in Portugal, Italy and Belgium also joined the strike.
Around 400 of those are to or from Spain.
“We are going on strike,” said Ernesto Iglesias, a delegate for the USO union, who lamented how Ryanair ‘refuses to reduce the salary gaps between employees’ or ‘reduce its reliance on temporary workers’.
At Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez-Barajas airport, Ryanair clients were being handed out guidelines on how to contact customer service.
Some Ryanair costumers were still unsure on Wednesday morning whether their flight would be departing or not, with several arriving to find their flights cancelled.
The budget airline has been offering alternative flights or refunds, but refuses to provide additional compensation.
It claims the strike represents an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ that falls outside the requirement of paying out between €250 and €600 for cancellations, according to European air passenger rights regulations.
Consumer association FACUA and the Spanish Air Safety Agency (AESA), however, disagree, saying cancellations were not announced 15 days in advance and that the strike is by company personnel – therefore it could be stopped by Ryanair and is not ‘extraordinary’.
“The first claim for compensation must be addressed to Ryanair,” said FACUA spokesman Rubén Sánchez.
“Customers must tell Ryanair to pay compensation for damages, which could even be moral damages: imagine someone was going on their honeymoon. Filing a claim is free, and we need proof that we have taken this step.”