By Darren McCaffrey, Dublin Correspondent
Around half of Ryanair pilots based in Ireland are due to strike days before Christmas in a long-running dispute over workers' rights.
The strike, scheduled for Wednesday 20 December, involves the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (IALPA) and the IMPACT trade union.
It is unclear at this stage what impact it will have on people travelling home for Christmas but most of the pilots balloted for strike action are captains.
The union claims 94% of the directly-employed pilots backed strike action.
However a majority of Ryanair pilots who are either contracted or hired through intermediary arrangements in the Republic of Ireland were not balloted.
This is only part of a series of industrial disputes facing the low cost airline across Europe over negotiating and collective bargaining rights.
Italian pilots are scheduled to stop work for four hours between 1pm and 5pm this Friday.
Meanwhile, German pilots union Vereinigung Cockpit have warned industrial action may spread to Ryanair pilots in Germany and have not ruled out also taking industrial action in the Christmas period
And Portuguese-based pilots have also balloted for industrial action, but so far have not served notification of any industrial action.
Ashley Connolly, an official at Irish trade union IMPACT, said: "This dispute is solely about winning independent representation for pilots in the company.
"Management's failed negotiating model has let down shareholders and tens of thousands of passengers, whose flights were cancelled this year because company-controlled industrial relations proved incapable of recruiting and retaining enough pilots.
"The failed policy threatens to further disappoint shareholders and passengers, and further damage the airline's reputation, because experienced pilots continue to leave the airline in droves.
"This dispute is about securing a safe space for negotiations, with independent representation that pilots can have confidence in".
The union has also not ruled out further strike days if agreement is not reached.
The airline said: "Ryanair will deal with any such disruptions if, or when they arise, and we apologise sincerely to customers for any upset or worry this threatened action by less than 28% of our Dublin pilots may cause them over the coming days.
"While some disruption may occur, Ryanair believes this will largely be confined to a small group of pilots who are working their notice and will shortly leave Ryanair, so they don't care how much upset they cause colleagues or customers."
Ryanair's statement noted that the threatened industrial action was about union recognition rather than the pay of Dublin-based pilots, earning €150,000-€190,000 per year, who had been offered a 20% pay rise.
The airline said it was entitled to decline to engage with what it called "competitor" pilot unions.
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"Ryanair will not recognise an Aer Lingus pilot union, no matter how often or how long this tiny minority try to disrupt our flights or our customer plans during Christmas week," its statement said.
Ryanair said IALPA's own numbers showed it had the support of less than 28% of Ryanair's more than 300 Dublin pilots.
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