Ryanair Charleroi airport strike frustrates Brussels holidaymakers


A strike by Ryanair pilots at Brussels’ South Charleroi airport looks set to frustrate holidaymakers and other travellers to and from the Belgian capital. The industrial action is set to continue over August 14 and 15.

Charleroi airport has announced that, as of writing, a total of 88 flights have been cancelled for the two days.

The strike comes at a particularly bad time for the tourism trade, as August 15 is a national holiday in Belgium, meaning that many Belgian residents have taken a long weekend hoping to travel further afield. Some 22 of the 88 cancelled flights are going to and from sunny Spain alone.

As such, many passengers both leaving and coming back to Belgium may find themselves stranded.

The strike is an escalation of action as Ryanair pilots based in Belgium protest against what they say is poor pay and working conditions.

The latest move follows a two-day walkout in July that resulted in the cancellation of nearly 100 flights at Charleroi airport. The strikes were initially sparked by two trade unions, CNE-ACV Puls, along with the pilots’ union Beca, in mid-July.

At the heart of the dispute is what the pilots’ union claims is unacceptable HR management and alleged pay cuts during the Covid-19 crisis. Beca accuses Ryanair of pressuring pilots to accept such cuts “under the threat of redundancies”.

It also claims that Ryanair is exploiting a mechanism to bypass automatic pay indexing – a standard practice in Belgium where employees have their wages automatically increased to match inflation. Ryanair refutes those claims.

Ryanair has previously received warnings from national authorities over its treatment of staff. In the past, some employees have said company bosses “don’t treat us like humans”.

The strike has hit a nerve for both Ryanair and Belgium. Several kilometres south of Brussels city, Charleroi airport is hub for both the airline and the country, and usually offers cheaper flights than Zaventem airport, which is located just outside Brussels city limits.

Flights operated by Ryanair crews stationed outside o Belgium will continue as usual.

The strike has dealt a blow to passengers’ travel plans and caused ripples across destinations including Bosnia, Croatia, France, Italy, Morocco, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden. As the situation unfolds, Charleroi airport recommends passengers check their flight status before setting out.

While the airline industry continues to grapple with pandemic-induced challenges, the discord between Ryanair and its Belgian pilots underscores larger concerns over fair treatment and working conditions.

The Charleroi situation remains fluid and further strikes could be announced until an agreement can be reached. Travellers are advised to stay tuned to official announcements and news sources for the latest developments.