Ryanair confirmed the cancellations and strike today (Friday August 10), calling it "regrettable and unjustified", as pilots based in Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Ireland and the Netherlands walked out in a dispute over working conditions and pay.
Nearly 400 flights have been cancelled today, affecting more than 55,000 passengers.
Germany will be the country most affected by the strike with 250 flight cancellations across ten airports.
The Dutch pilot union, VNV, had earlier this week described today's strike as a "wake-up call" for Ryanair. But the figure could rise to 82 flights if routes between the Dutch city of Eindhoven and the Spanish cities of Reus and Valencia are finally canceled, after a court said on Thursday that Dutch pilots may join the walkout.
Ryanair operates more than 2,000 flights a day, serving 223 airports across 37 countries in Europe and North Africa, and insists it will not change the low-priced model that transformed the industry and has made it Europe's most profitable airline.
But there have been protests ever since over the negotiating of collective labour agreements. Irish pilots recently staged four one-day walkouts, while cabin crew in Spain, Belgium, Italy and Portugal went on strike on July 25 and 26.
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Unions also want the airline to give contractors the same work conditions as staff employees.
The airline said that over 2,000 flights, or 85 percent of the schedule, would operate as normal and that the majority of passengers affected have been re-booked on other Ryanair services.
Another key complaint of workers based in countries other than Ireland is the fact that Ryanair employs them under Irish legislation, arguing most of its employees work on Irish planes.
Ryanair's management claims to have offered a pay increase and to be open to further talks.
Around 55,000 passengers would be affected by the strikes, said Ryanair, which has offered customers refunds or the option of rerouting their journey.
It has already threatened to move part of its Dublin fleet to Poland, which could cost 300 jobs, including 100 pilot positions.
Among other issues, they are also seeking changes to Ryanair's practice of moving staff to different bases without much notice, and a reduction in hours.