Ryanair Pilot Strike Blocked by Irish Court; U.K. Verdict Looms

(Bloomberg) --

Ryanair Holdings Plc’s bid to block a strike by Irish pilots was upheld by a court in Dublin, while a hearing in London will determine whether U.K. crews can walk out ahead of the country’s busiest weekend for air travel.

The injunction Wednesday comes the day before the planned start of parallel 48-hour strikes at the Irish carrier’s home base and in its biggest market. An English court is due to decide later whether British pilots can go ahead with their action, which threatens flights at London Stansted, Ryanair’s largest hub.

The Irish decision provides Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary with breathing space as he grapples with a slew of labor disputes across Europe at the height of the summer travel season. Members of the British Airline Pilots’ Association and Ireland’s Forsa are seeking a raise and the U.K. union had accused Ryanair of resorting to “bullying tactics” by taking the dispute to court.

The airline said on Twitter that it welcomes the Irish ruling and that all flights scheduled to depart Ireland on Thursday and Friday will now operate as normal, while calling on Forsa to return to mediated talks.

Forsa spokesman Bernard Harbor said the union will consult with its legal team on the court decision, in which judge Denis McDonald said a full hearing would be required to determine whether the strike ballot was carried out entirely within the rules for such votes.

Busiest Day

Ryanair rose as much as 1.9% and traded 0.7% higher at to 8.66 euros as of 12:54 p.m. in Dublin, paring its decline this year to 19%. The stock slumped about 30% last year as the carrier was hit by the first strikes in its history.

A walkout of U.K. pilots could be more impactful than any dispute Ryanair has faced since being forced to recognize unions less than two years ago, Sanford C. Bernstein Daniel Roeska has said, especially since it would come in the run-up to the U.K. bank holiday on Monday.

Ryanair is slated to carry 259,000 people on more than 1,700 U.K. services over the planned 48-hour strike, with Friday due to be Britain’s busiest day for flights in the entire year, according to travel analytics specialist Cirium.

Still, the airline says that Forsa and Balpa represent only a fraction of pilots, and Stephen Furlong, an analyst with Davy Securities in Dublin, reckons disruption from flight cancellations could be limited, though the airline may also suffer a longer-term impact on bookings.

O’Leary upped the ante last month when he told pilots and flights attendants that hundreds of jobs must go and bases close to cope with a possible no-deal Brexit and slower growth after the grounding of Boeing Co.’s 737 Max jet.

Cabin crew at all 13 of Ryanair’s Spanish bases have threatened to strike next month over plans to close three locations unless an agreement is reached with unions. Staff in Portugal are in the midst of a five-day action over holiday allowances and dues.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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