Ryanair passengers complain of being stranded across Europe during 24-hour strikes

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Hundreds of Ryanair flights - including at least 50 services into and out of Britain - will not take off as planned today due to pilot strikes in five countries.

Pilots in France have not joined the strike, and most of the flights will directly affect passengers in Germany (accounting for around 42,000 of the 55,000 passengers expected to be affected).

But a court said yesterday Ryanair pilots in the Netherlands could not be prevented from doing so.

Ryanair has refused to issue a list of the flights cancelled, but The Times understands that at least 50 departures from the United Kingdom have been called off, with more than 250 cancelled in Ireland.

Ryanair is facing a rising tide of protests from unions frustrated at the slow progress being made in negotiations over collective labour agreements.

But Ryanair insisted in a statement that 'there will be no cancellations (of flights to and from the Netherlands) as a result of the unnecessary strike action by the Dutch pilot union'.

"What I find unjustified is that the pilots draw the short straw, because people want to fly cheaply", said Daniel Flamman, one of several passengers Reuters spoke to at Frankfurt airport who said they sympathised with the pilots.

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.

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That topped the 300 flights a day it had to cancel last month when cabin crews in Belgium, Portugal and Spain escalated the staff revolt by going on strike for 48 hours.

Despite the walkouts, 85pc of its scheduled flights, more than 2,000, will operate as normal, Ryanair said.

Unions have strongly condemned what they see as Ryanair's attempts to play countries off against each other.

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 has repeatedly said it remained open to further talks with pilot representatives.

But the "once in a lifetime experience" of being at her best friend Justine's wedding seems impossible now, after Ryanair cancelled her flight with two days' notice.

It said it has taken every step to minimise the disruption, adding: "The majority of customers affected have already been re-accommodated on another Ryanair flight".

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