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Ryanair action over airport strike

Irish airline Ryanair is to take legal action against Spain's government-owned airport operator and a union whose members engaged in wildcat strikes that caused chaos at the beginning of the month.

The airline was forced to cancel 500 flights, affecting 75,000 passengers over a two-day period as over 2,000 air traffic controllers walked out, virtually shutting down Spain's airspace.

The strike action infuriated Spain's government, which subsequently placed air traffic control in the country under military law, enabling anyone who failed to follow orders to be court-martialled.

Court action has already begun against state-owned airport operator AENA, with a group representing 5,000 passengers as well as hoteliers and airlines vying for compensation. Those passengers are seeking €10,000 each, far higher than the €600 that has been offered by AENA.

Ryanair is targeting the USCA union, AENA as well as airspace safety body AESA. The airline called on the European Commission to eliminate the 'right to strike' from essential services such as air traffic control. So far in 2010, Ryanair said it has been forced to cancel 2,500 flights and delay 13,000, disrupting 2.5m passengers because of industrial action in Spain, France and Belgium.

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