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.


World’s biggest sovereign fund worried about trade wars

Updated 21 August 2018
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World’s biggest sovereign fund worried about trade wars

  • The fund posted a positive return of 1.8 percent, or 167 billion kroner ($19.8 billion), in the second quarter
  • Markets are worried about a trade dispute between the United States and China

OSLO: The managers of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s biggest, expressed concern Tuesday about global trade tensions, which could heavily impact its value.
The fund posted a positive return of 1.8 percent, or 167 billion kroner ($19.8 billion), in the second quarter, helping erase a loss of 171 billion kroner in January-March that was attributed to a volatile stock market.
The Government Pension Fund Global, which saw its total value swell to 8.33 trillion kroner by the end of June, manages the country’s oil revenues in order to finance Norway’s generous welfare state when its oil and gas wells run dry.
But Norway’s central bank, which runs the fund, said geopolitical and trade tensions presented a risk.
“It’s fair to say that increased trade barriers or even trade wars will not be beneficial for the fund as a long-term global investor,” Trond Grande, the deputy chief of Norges Bank Investment Management, told reporters.
Markets are worried about a trade dispute between the United States and China. Accusing Beijing of unfair competition, the US administration is considering slapping a new round of levies worth $200 billion on Chinese goods.
Talks between the two slated for Wednesday and Thursday aimed at resolving the dispute have however eased concerns somewhat.
Following US-Turkey tensions that sent the Turkish lira and the Istanbul stock market tumbling, the Norwegian fund said its assets there were worth less than the 23 billion kroner they were at the beginning of the year.
“We’ve seen the market rise for a long time, that there are different political and geopolitical events in the world that can affect the market, and we have to be prepared for the fact that (the value of) the fund can go down a lot,” Grande concluded.
The fund’s strong second quarter was attributed primarily to its share portfolio, which accounts for 66.8 percent of its investments and which rose by 2.7 percent.
Real estate holdings, which account for 2.6 percent of its holdings, rose by 1.9 percent, while bond investments, which represent 30.6 percent, remained flat.
Faced with falling oil revenues in recent years, the Norwegian government has been tapping the fund to finance public spending since 2015. But with oil prices recovering, the fund registered its first inflow in three years in June.