Ryanair may close second Danish airport after row with unions

James Nickerson
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Ryanair says Danish unions are unable to adapt (Source: Getty)

Low-cost airline Ryanair has said that it may close its Billund airport base, which would be the airline’s second Danish base closure in just four days, as a union in the country frustrates the Irish carrier with plans of a strike at the airport.

This occurred on the same day as Ryanair officially shut down its only recently-opened base at Copenhagen Airport to avoid a strike by the Services Union, which is a member of the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO).

Despite Ryanair's passenger load factor of close to 90 per cent, the unions say Ryanair cabin crew members earn less than half the wages of rival local low-cost airlines.

The airline has operated for years without any conflicts at Billund Airport, where it faces less competition and staff have fewer job opportunities, and will continue to fly from Copenhagen and Billund airport.

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The union won a ruling this month allowing them to strike from 18 July and effectively ground Ryanair aircraft if the airline refuses to sign a collective agreement with staff, especially problematic as the LO could join a sympathy strike.

The airline’s personnel director Eddie Wilson, indicating talks are still up in the air, said closure plans will go ahead at Billund unless the unions respond by Wednesday evening:

We are sad, because we have had a successful base for three years in Billund without problems, but we are being blackmailed.

The actions of the unions are akin to an “anti-competitive closed shop,” Wilson said, which previously contributed to the collapse of Danish carriers such as Maersk Air and Sterling Airlines, as they are “unable to adapt to modern air travel where customers want low fares and efficiency not high costs, unionised inflexibility and inefficiencies”.

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Ryanair’s traffic at Billund Airport would be cut by more than half, plummeting from 700,000 annual passengers to over 300,000.

The Irish company on Tuesday also further reiterated its threat of taking the case to the European Court of Justice to appeal the Danish labour court decision.

Ryanair’s aircraft based at Billund are to be transferred to London Stansted and Dublin.

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