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Now Ryanair's passengers may face strike by its pilots

By Claire McNeilly

Ryanair passengers face the prospect of more disruption as pilots threaten strike action that could spark further flight cancellations.

More than 120 pilots at the budget airline attended three meetings in Dublin yesterday where a ballot for industrial action was discussed, and their colleagues are set to meet across Europe over the next 48 hours to consider a "collective" approach.

Sources said the 'collective action' could take the form of industrial action or staff might phone in sick, in a move that could cause widespread chaos for passengers flying with the low fares carrier.

In what's believed to have been a militant meeting in Dublin, pilots made it clear they were willing to walk out rather than accept the continuing pressure of meeting flight schedules and dealing with other ongoing issues.

Meanwhile, Ryanair has been forced to scour Brazil in its efforts to recruit pilots as it struggles to maintain its schedule.

The airline yesterday bowed to mounting public pressure by publishing details of all flight cancellations for the next six weeks, as furious customers rail against being left high and dry.

The news comes after it emerged that the budget European airline could also face up to £18m in compensation claims after scrapping thousands of flights due to a shortage of pilots.

Customers have reacted angrily to plans to cancel 40-50 flights every day for the next six weeks, after Ryanair "messed up" the planning of pilot holidays.

Consumer rights group Which? described the short-notice cancellations as "a nightmare for passengers", with up to 400,000 would-be travellers expected to be affected by the ongoing disruption.

Yesterday, the carrier published a list of the airports to be most affected by the cancellations at ryanair.com. It came shortly after Which? said passengers should be allowed to cancel flights "without penalty" if they did not do so.

Dublin is one of the airports that has been badly affected, with the situation set to go on until the end of October.

The other eight are Barcelona, Brussels, Lisbon, London Stansted, Madrid, Milan Bergamo, Porto and Rome.

The low-cost airline said it chose the locations as they have a high volume of flights with high frequencies and it will be easier to accommodate passengers affected.

It said over 98% of its customers will be unaffected. Ryanair has estimated the compensation bill to be around £18m for those caught up in the disruption.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary (below) yesterday apologised "unreservedly" to customers whose travel will be disrupted and quashed claims of a pilot shortage, saying the situation was "a mess of our own making".

"Ryanair is not short of pilots - we were able to fully crew our peak summer schedule in June, July and August - but we have messed up the allocation of annual leave to pilots in September and October because we are trying to allocate a full year's leave into a nine month period from April to December," he said.

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