Staff in Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands are staging a 24-hour walkout over pay and conditions.
The airline said 396 flights have been cancelled as a result – including at least 50 services into and out of the UK – forcing passengers who planned to travel on Friday to rebook or take different routes.
Ryanair planes have a capacity of 189, meaning more than 74,000 passengers could be affected.
The Irish budget carrier said the strikes were "regrettable and unjustified" and called for unions to come back to the negotiating table.
They added that 85 percent of its scheduled flights, more than 2,000, would operate as normal.
German pilot representatives announced on Wednesday that they were joining the strike action because they want pay and work conditions comparable to those at Ryanair's competitors.
There were scenes of empty check in counters and grounded planes at airports across several countries in Europe this morning.
The airline has promised to refund or reschedule flights for any passengers affected but one customer described the airline as a "headache", complaining they had had difficulty getting a quick response after contacting the firm on their live chat.
They tweeted: "#ryanair cancelled my flight in the last min because of pilots strike. They offer me to change my tickets online which it's not possible because of their system crash. Noone is on the phone and livechat. They even don't do a refund. Ryanair is an headache."
Another customer said she would miss work meetings and a doctor's appointment due to a cancelled flight.
She wrote: "Many thanks to @Ryanair for cancelling my flight home + ensuring all of the de-stressing I have done on this trip is cancelled out in an instant."
A Ryanair spokesperson said: "Ryanair took every step to minimise the disruption and we notified our customers as early as possible, advising them of their free move, refund or reroute options.
"The majority of customers have already been accommodated on another Ryanair flight.
"We want to again apologise to customers affected by this unnecessary disruption and we ask the striking unions to continue negotiations instead of calling any more unjustified strikes."
However, the pilots have accused the airline of refusing to engage in meaningful dialogue over the disputed labour agreements.
There has also been considerable disagreement over whether Ryanair will have to pay compensation to passengers who have had their flights cancelled though.
If your flight has been cancelled with less than 15 days’ notice then you should complain to the airline first.
If they say no to your claim, the next step is to approach the AviationADR – a dispute resolution scheme that has the ultimate decision on whether a claim is valid.
It doesn’t cost anything to claim with Aviation ADR and Ryanair are legally obliged to comply with their decision.
You can submit your complaint to the AviationADR via their online complaint form.
The airline sector covers complaints against any major airlines, budget airlines or international airlines where the flight in question arrived or departed (or was due to arrive/depart) from a UK airport.
One of their complaint handlers will firs determine whether your complaint falls within AviationADR’s jurisdiction and then they will try to solve the situation with a recommendation for both the airline and passenger.
If either party disagrees with the recommendation, the complaint will be passed to an adjudicator for a final decision.
The official body that oversees and regulates airline travel in the UK says it does. Which? contacted the Civil Aviation Authority, who said that the airline needs to pay out to customers affected.
A spokesperson from Which? told Sun Online Travel: “The airline is legally obliged to pay compensation to passengers whose flights are
cancelled with less than two weeks’ notice, unless it can prove that the cancellations were caused by what’s known as ‘extraordinary circumstances’.
“In most cases, the figure will be €250 (£220) per person and it could be more for some longer flights. The recent strikes by French Air Traffic Controllers are considered to be ‘extraordinary’, as they are outside the airline’s control."
They continued: “However, the CAA has confirmed that strikes by Ryanair’s own employees are its responsibility and should be eligible for compensation."
New research by Which? Travel has shown that fewer than 500 Ryanair passengers were awarded compensation in 2017 – 14 per cent of those who asked for it.
This is despite the Aviation ADR, the firm that helps to settle disputes over airline compensation, receiving over 3,600 complaints about the airline.
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