Wednesday 25 April 2018

Ryanair crisis: O'Leary denies making threat to unhappy pilots

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary Photo: Colin Keegan
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary Photo: Colin Keegan
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

More than half of Ryanair's pilot bases are now believed to have demanded improved employment conditions from the airline amid a flights fiasco that chief executive Michael O'Leary has insisted will be resolved in the coming weeks.

The Irish Independent has learned that 55 of Ryanair's pilot bases have rejected a call to work on days-off, and have demanded new employment conditions. Ryanair has about 4,200 pilots, about 1,000 of them between Dublin and London Stansted. Ryanair has 86 bases in total.

Amid a continuing crisis, Mr O'Leary has warned that any pilots who engage in so-called "blue flu" or any other kind of industrial action would face sanctions and may not be promoted.

"I don't even know how there would be industrial action in Ryanair," he said following the airline's annual general meeting at Ryanair headquarters in Dublin. "There isn't a union in Ryanair. There has been no demand for new contracts."

He added that any pilots who engage in industrial action such as 'blue flu' can "kiss goodbye" pay increases. Blue flu was the name given to past industrial action by gardaí, who were prohibited from striking, when they called in sick en masse. Asked by the Irish Independent if that was a threat to pilots, Mr O'Leary said "absolutely not". "We have some goodies to discuss with pilots, but if pilots misbehave, that will be the end of discussion on goodies. I don't think that would be construed as a threat," he said.

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More than half of Ryanair pilot bases want improvements. Picture: Reuters
More than half of Ryanair pilot bases want improvements. Picture: Reuters

And while there appears to be growing discontent among Ryanair pilots, Mr O'Leary said the airline has already received offers from pilots willing to yield a total of 2,500 days of holidays in order to see the carrier through its flights crisis, which has impacted more than 300,000 passengers. Ryanair has offered its captains €12,000 to work the extra days, with first officers offered €6,000.

He confirmed that pilots at bases including Dublin, Berlin and Frankfurt were among those who had been offered an extra €10,000 unconditional base allowance in order to cement their loyalty to the airline. The Irish Independent revealed the pay offer earlier this week.

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Mr O'Leary claimed that about 60pc of Ryanair's 2,100 captains were "where they ultimately want to be", located at their preferred home bases. He added that the remainder were on so-called "base requests", and want to move to the next vacancy that arises in their home country. "They are not going to engage in blue flus, they are not going to engage in disruption, because they will find themselves never going to whatever country they want to go to," the chief executive warned. "And that's why we have a very good relationship with them."

The airline chief added: "We then have about 2,200 first officers. A first officer wants to get promoted to be a captain. If you call in with a blue flu… they will find themselves operating at a base that may be frozen, they may not get a promotion, which would be of a huge detriment." Mr O'Leary, who has become a billionaire through his involvement with Ryanair, said he has "no issue" with his bonus being cut as a result of the flights debacle.

Irish Independent

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