Ryanair axes 34 winter routes as 150 pilots here join up to union
Ryanair is axing 34 routes across Europe this winter in a move that will hit almost 400,000 more passengers as it struggles to contain a roster debacle that has become a public-relations nightmare for the airline.
The number of affected passengers is on top of the 315,000 that have already been hit by flight cancellations.
The Irish Independent can also reveal that 150 pilots of the 300 based here have now joined the Irish Airline Pilots' Association after meetings held in Dublin yesterday.
In a dramatic statement, Ryanair also said it had pulled out of the race to buy bankrupt Italian airline Alitalia. That prompted Ryanair's shares to soar 4pc in Dublin.
"In order to focus on repairing this rostering problem this winter, Ryanair will eliminate all management distractions, starting with its interest in Alitalia," it said. "We have notified the Alitalia bankruptcy commissioners that we will not be pursuing our interest."
Meanwhile, Britain's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is launching "enforcement action" against the airline for failing to give customers accurate information about their rights following the wave of flight cancellations.
The regulator has asked for a meeting with the airline as part of a consultation that will last at least seven days and could take legal action for breaching consumer protection laws "if necessary". Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary said: "We are in correspondence with the CAA and have requested an early meeting to address their concerns."
Ryanair will ground 25 jets this winter from its 400-strong fleet to free up more than 250 pilots to fill a gap left by a rostering cock-up that left it with insufficient pilots to cover its flight schedule. It will ground 10 aircraft from a fleet of 445 jets from April. It insisted it had recruited and would train more than 650 pilots in the coming eight months.
"From today, there will be no more rostering-related flight cancellations this winter or in summer 2018," insisted chief executive Michael O'Leary. Ryanair also said it no longer needed pilots to give up one week holidays from November onwards.
The airline faces a significant challenge in its recruitment drive, but insisted that "false claims" had been made about its pilot recruitment ability and that it won't give in to an apparent groundswell of pilot discontent and demands for improved pay and conditions.
It added that "hundreds of pilots" had been in touch with it to offer to work days off.
"Many of our pilots and ERC's have confirmed that these unsigned letters were drafted by pilots/unions of competitor airlines who wish to pursue an industrial relations agenda at the expense of Ryanair and its pilots," it claimed.
But two Ryanair pilot meetings were held in Dublin yesterday, attended by up to 150 of the 300 pilots the airline has based in the capital.
It is believed virtually all of the 150 pilots indicated they had now joined the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (Ialpa).
In a lengthy memo to its pilots yesterday, seen by the Irish Independent, Ryanair's chief operations officer Michael Hickey apologised for "any difficulty that our rostering failure and our response to it last week may have caused".
Among the axed routes for winter is the Belfast-Gatwick service, which represents a huge chunk of Ryanair's business out of Northern Ireland. The airline has given the newly hit passengers a €40, or €80 return, travel voucher, to be used by them to book a flight on any Ryanair service between October and March.