Some cabin crew staff at Ryanair (RYA.IR) went on strike in Spain, Belgium and Portugal on Friday amid a row over pay and working conditions as travellers face more misery ahead of the summer holiday period.
The Belgian strike was the most recently announced and will take place over this weekend, from Friday until Sunday.
It was organised to coincide with the Portuguese and Spanish walk outs, both of which will happen at the same time. Another three-day strike is also planned in Spain, running from 30 June until 2 July.
Workers in France and Italy are expected to take a shorter action. Italian workers are staging a 24-hour strike on Saturday 25 June, and French staff have threatened to walk out between 25 and 26 June.
Passengers have faced chaotic scenes amid long delays and last-minute cancellations at major airports in recent months as staff shortages and the pandemic havoc has seen airlines struggle to meet demand.
On Thursday, it was announced that 700 British Airways staff, including check-in workers and ground-handling agents at Heathrow could walk out at the height of the summer season.
Why are workers striking?
Ryanair workers claim the Irish carrier does not respect local labour laws covering issues such as the minimum wage and are calling on company bosses to improve working conditions.
"Conditions are terrible," said Ricardo Penarroias, president of SNPVAC, the union behind Portugal's walkout. "A crew member is not even allowed to take a bottle of water on a flight."
Ryanair said last week that it had negotiated labour agreements covering 90% of its staff across Europe and that it did not expect widespread disruption this summer.
The Spanish government has forced Ryanair to operate 73% to 82% of flights over the strike period to maintain minimum services. The decision means most staff will be forced to go to work, something Ernesto Iglesias, from the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO) says limits workers' right to strike.
According to Ryanair chief executive Eddie Wilson Spanish workers have demanded a 165% pay rise.
Which routes and destinations are affected?
The strike is likely to hit Belgium the hardest, with local media saying 127 flights at Charleroi airport would be grounded, affecting 21,000 passengers. In addition, 10 Ryanair flights per day are also set to be axed at Brussels airport.
In Lisbon, two flights were cancelled on Friday so far, both to Brussels.
The SNPVAC union, which represents Portuguese airline crews, said not many flights would be cancelled from airports in the country as Ryanair placed strikers on stand-by and asked cabin crew in other countries to stand in for them. Ryanair said SNPVAC only represented 3% of its staff in Portugal.
According to Spain's cabin staff union USO, a total of 18 flights between Brussels and Spanish cities were slashed on Friday and Saturday.
Italy's civil aviation authority ENAC has published the Ryanair flights that will fly as scheduled on 25 June, reminding travellers that all flights, including charters, are guaranteed during strikes from 7am to 10am and 6pm to 9pm local time.
A spokesperson for Ryanair told Yahoo Finance UK that "less than 2% of its 3,000 flights on Friday (24 June) have been affected by strikes, mainly confined to minor disruptions in Belgium, where over 60% of Ryanair’s scheduled flights to/from Charleroi and Zaventem will operate today."
They added: "There were no flight disruptions in Italy, Spain, Portugal, UK, France or Ireland as the vast majority of Ryanair crews are working normally. Over this weekend (25 & 26 June), Ryanair expects minimal (if any) disruption to its flight schedules as a result of these very minor and poorly supported work stoppages.
"Ryanair expects some disruptions on Saturday /Sunday — mainly in France, Italy and Spain — due to a 2 day strike in the French Air Traffic Control centre in Marseille which will significantly delay or impact flights crossing French airspace.
"Ryanair expects over 98% of its 3,000 daily flights will operate normally on Saturday and Sunday this weekend."
What are your rights if a flight is cancelled or delayed?
People planning to travel to or from any of the affected countries on the mentioned dates should check their flight status prior to, and on the day of travel. Ryanair said it will notify passengers whose flights are disrupted by the ATC delays/strikes or airport staff shortages this weekend via email or SMS.
After Brexit, the government brought the EU’s EU261 scheme into British law. This sets out the compensation passengers are entitled to if a flight is cancelled or delayed by more than three hours. Depending on how far your trip is, you'll receive between £220 ($270) and £520.
UK holidaymakers have the right to be rerouted or refunded, except during so-called "extraordinary circumstances", such as bad weather or an airline traffic control strike.
Airlines are legally required to find you a replacement flight that will get you to your destination as soon as possible after your original arrival time. If a carrier can rebook you on one of its flights departing the same day, it can do so, as opposed to buying you a ticket on another airline. You are also entitled to a full ticket refund for the price of the original flight.
These rules do not apply if you were notified of the cancellation or delay at least two weeks prior to your departure.