Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has hit out at the European Commission this morning over its handling of strike action by staff at French air traffic control, describing it as a “shambles.”
Following Ryanair’s first quarter results, O’Leary told analysts on a conference call that the continuing failure of the commission to take action to address the air traffic control (ATC) strikes was “inexplicable,” but is “exactly what you’d expect from anything run by European governments and by the European Commission.”
French strikes, which began as a result of Macron’s pension age reforms, have already affected 60 days of flying so far this year and hit a slew of major airlines across Europe.
“We have long complained about the 60 days French ATC strike and the European Commission continues to sit on its hands doing nothing,” O’Leary said.
Ryanair, who claim the dispute has forced it to cancel over 4,000 flights, is calling for protection of flights passing through French airspace, so that non-French passengers won’t face cancellations.
In an attack typical of the budget airlines’ combative chief, O’Leary slammed commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen for “fobbing off” his correspondence, adding that he wasn’t holding out “any great hope” she was “going to do anything useful other than sitting around doing nothing.”
“Nothing is being done for Europe. The minimum we’re calling for is protection of overflights during French ATC strikes and that hasn’t been delivered. Most of the ATC providers… are short staffed inexplicably, and are incapable of providing the staffing that’s necessary,” he said.
The strikes have caused chaos throughout Europe, with low-cost favourite Easyjet recently cancelling 1700 flights for the summer, citing airspace restrictions due to the ATC feud and war in Ukraine.
Piling yet more misery on holidaymakers, Europe’s airspace coordinator Eurocontrol recently warned that air traffic control across the continent would be overloaded at key locations, with further strikes in the next six months a distinct possibility.
This, coupled with recently announced industrial action at Gatwick, has provoked fears in Britain of a repeat of last summer’s travel chaos.
O’Leary’s comments this morning came after Ryanair announced its first quarter results, which saw its first quarter profits fly past pre-pandemic levels to €663m.
It’s the first hint of its performance ahead of what is being touted as a critical summer period for the aviation sector as it looks to recover from the heavy losses incurred during the pandemic.
Despite soaring profits, the budget carrier’s outlook was more tempered than expected, with issues including delivery delays, ATC walk-outs and winter demand highlighted as hurdles for the coming months.
Its shares fell over 3 per cent on the Euronext Dublin exchange following the announcement.
The European Commission was contacted for comment.