Ryanair threatened Wednesday to cut more then 300 jobs as the no-frills Irish airline faced down its biggest strikes that have forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights.
Europe's largest low-cost carrier said in a statement it had issued 90 days notice to more than 100 pilots and over 200 cabin crew under plans to cut its Dublin fleet from 30 to around 24 aircraft for this winter, following recent pilots' strikes there.
The airline said there had been "a downturn in forward bookings and airfares in Ireland partly as a result of recent rolling strikes by Irish pilots" which "has had a negative effect on high fare bookings and forward air fares as consumer confidence in the reliability of our Irish flight schedules has been disturbed."
The announcement came a day after dozens of Ryanair's Ireland-based pilots staged their third 24-hour strike in an ongoing dispute over working arrangements including annual leave and promotions, leading to the cancellation of 16 flights affecting some 2,500 customers.
The airline said that the overhaul was also partly driven by the "rapid growth" of Ryanair Sun, which is its profitable Polish charter airline.
The group will begin consultations with affected staff and offer transfers to Poland to minimise redundancies.
"We regret these base aircraft reductions at Dublin for winter 2018, but the board has decided to allocate more aircraft to those markets where we are enjoying strong growth (such as Poland)," said chief operating officer Peter Bellew.
"This will result in some aircraft reductions and job cuts in country markets where business has weakened, or forward bookings are being damaged by rolling strikes by Irish pilots."
- 600 flights cancelled -
Ryanair, which flies in 37 countries and carried 130 million passengers last year, averted widespread strikes before Christmas by deciding to recognise trade unions for the first time in its 32-year history. But it has since struggled to reach agreement on terms with several of them.
The airline is facing its biggest week of strikes as in addition to the Irish pilots, cabin crew in Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Italy began on Wednesday a two-day walkout over work conditions, leading to the cancellation of 600 flights.
The airline said the 100,000 affected passengers had all been put on alternative flights or would receive refunds.
Unions want the airline to give contractors the same work conditions as staff employees.
They are also seeking that Ryanair staff be employed according to the national legislation of the country they work in, rather than that of Ireland as is currently the case, which blocks the workers' access to state benefits.
"It's not so much about money, it's mainly about the conditions, how they treat workers," said a 22-year-old air hostess at Barcelona airport, who refused to be named for fear of reprisals.
"They don't even give us water in the plane.
"If we want some, or we bring it from home or we buy it for three euros."
Her 26-year-old colleague, who also refused to be named, added they are only paid for their flight time.
"But the time needed to arrive beforehand, boarding, delays or any other potential problem that will lengthen our day is not counted as work."
- More strikes -
Spain, the world's second tourist destination after France, is the worst affected country, with 200 flights cancelled on Wednesday.
Ernesto Iglesias of Spain's USO union said more walkouts by cabin crew staff are likely.
"All options are open because we don't have any sign that Ryanair will reverse gear," he told reporters at Madrid airport where striking cabin crew handed out bottles of water along with fliers to passengers explaining the reasons for their strike.
In the fliers, crew members complained that they could not ask for a mortgage in Spain because they get their payroll in Ireland, and have no medical assistance in Spain.
Ryanair argues that since its planes fly under the Irish flag and most of its employees work onboard planes, its staff are covered by Irish law.
The airline published on its website salary slips for June, arguing that pilots and cabin crew are fairly paid and could earn up to 40,000 euros ($47,000) per year.