WITH Ryanair’s Spanish cabin crew calling a series of strikes that could last until January 2023, there’s widespread speculation about the constant “chaos” it will cause. The UK Foreign Office recently issued a warning about flight delays, stoking public travel fears. 

Backed by the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO) and the SITCPLA Spanish airline unions, the dispute about salary and working conditions could see strikes take place every weekday until January, if not resolved.

Industrial relations problems at Ryanair have been apparent for many years, and staff discord is not a new theme. The Spanish unions are currently demanding 22 days of holiday and two extra months annual pay to comply with Spain’s legislation. They would also like 11 sacked employees to be reinstated.

One issue fuelling the strike has been newer staff at Ryanair bases receiving a higher basic salary than those who have worked since before the pandemic, and have more experience.

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All is not sunny at Ryanair. Photo: Jo Chipchase.

However, with the Spanish government insisting that Ryanair operates “minimum services” from its airports, thereby limiting the ability of staff to strike, the disruption has not grounded many planes. To date, Spain has seen the cancellation of around 2% of flights on strike days, with other flights delayed, and an absence of in-flight services for passengers.

The Olive Press spoke, off-record, to a member of the Spanish cabin crew operating between Malaga and the UK, who explained the motivation behind the strike. 

She said: “The contracts introduced after Covid have lowered our pay and working conditions – what we had before shouldn’t be treated as a bonus; it was our rights. We are not paid for situations where the plane sits on the tarmac. I had one sitting there for six hours and was only paid for the eight hours of my shift, not for 14 hours. Our hourly rate for standby is only 5 euros.” 

“They (the managers) message us constantly. If somebody doesn’t turn up for their shift three times, they are in the position of being sacked. There is a lot of pressure to keep working, as the plane cannot take off if even one member of the cabin crew is missing.”

On routes between the UK and Spain, cabin crew have protested by withdrawing the trolley service that usually gives passengers food, drink and duty free goods. Despite sending numerous emails to its passengers about face masks and car hire, Ryanair doesn’t say to take your own drinks and snacks during strike days. This could lead to unwanted surprises for people travelling with hungry children, when there’s nothing to buy on board.

Said the cabin crew member: “We have no intention of harming our passengers. We will always provide water for people if they don’t have any, and hand over items they’ve bought in advance.” Pre-orders from passengers are visible to cabin crew on a special mobile app showing the passenger manifest, so they can see who has already spent money and needs to be served – purely out of goodwill.

Ryanair booking system ripping off passengers

Despite Ryanair knowing in advance the strike dates, and that there is no trolley service, its booking system still allows passengers to pre-purchase meal deals and credit to spend in-flight. 

When the Olive Press tested the booking process, it allowed us to buy 15e of onboard credit for a flight on a strike day. More annoyingly: a system glitch doubled the amount payable in the checkout to £28 (30e). When we selected “cancel” for this transaction, we were blocked from proceeding to online check-in. A pop-up window saying “your flight needs an extra payment” appeared, demanding £13 (15e). It was impossible to get past this screen without handing over the £13. Trying to contact Ryanair customer services proved futile. 

Ryanair Flight Glitch
Glitch on Ryanair booking system demands £13 for cancelled on-board credit. Photo: Jo Chipchase

The Olive Press also discovered that the booking system allows you to add airport security fast-track after you’ve already checked-in online. This means that fast-track isn’t marked on the boarding passes – so it’s impossible to prove that you have it at airport security. By then, it’s too late to complain!

Summer flight hacks

  • It’s cheaper to add in-flight extras before you finalise and pay for a booking. If you log in later to add baggage and other extras, the prices will usually have increased.
  • With Ryanair, it’s cheaper to add one of the suggested ‘bundles’ for bags and seats for a more comfortable flight experience.
  • Use Seat Guru to ensure you’re not selecting a “bad” seat – for example, with no window (seat 11A on Ryanair). 
  • If you have too much hand baggage to meet the airline’s regulations, once you’re past security, go to a duty-free shop and ask for large plastic bag. Put the excess items inside this bag and carry them through the gate without risking a fine.
  • If you don’t want to pay 4e for a bottle of water at the airport, take an empty bottle through security and fill it at a tap. This might not taste so good though!
  • Make sure that your electronic devices are charged and can switch on at security, in case there’s a rare spot check to see if it “works as intended”.
  • Many flights are cashless these days, so ensure you take a credit card on board.
  • Don’t forget your mask if flying into Spain from another country. These are obligatory when you board the plane but many people remove them soon afterwards.
  • When flying into Spain with a full set of vaccines, you only need your vaccine certificates and not a passenger locator form – regardless of whether the airline sends a link to one.
  • Passengers can check the status of their Ryanair flight on the airline’s flight tracker system.
  • Check your rights about delayed or cancelled flights into or out of Spain on the UK Civil Aviation website.

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