Thursday 23 November 2017

Ryanair offers pilots up to €12,000 in one-off bonuses to work on days off

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary during a press conference in Dublin.
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary during a press conference in Dublin.

Anne Marie Walsh and John Mulligan

Ryanair passengers face the prospect of more disruption as pilots threaten strike action that could spark further flight cancellations.

More than 120 pilots at the budget airline attended three meetings in Dublin yesterday where a ballot for industrial action was discussed, and their colleagues are set to meet across Europe over the next 48 hours to consider a “collective” approach.

Members of pilot associations are due to meet at bases, including South Charleroi in Brussels, Bergamo in Italy and London Stansted, Ryanair’s biggest base, later in the week.

Sources claimed the ‘collective action’ being contemplated could take the form of industrial action or staff might phone in sick, in a move that could cause widespread chaos for passengers flying with the low fares carrier.

In a further development last night, it emerged Ryanair has offered all its pilots – both those employed directly by it and contractors – bonuses to work on days off.

Captains will receive a one-off €12,000/£12,000 bonus, and first officers a €6,000/£6,000 bonus, for agreeing to work at least 10 of their working days off over the next year. They must also satisfy some other conditions. The bonuses will be paid next year.

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Ryanair-employed pilots, and contractors, will also be paid more for spending a night away from their home base.

The airline has blamed changes to staff rosters, bad weather and air traffic control strikes for its unprecedented decision to cancel dozens of flights every day for the next six weeks. However, sources have said there is a shortage of pilots at the airline.

In what’s believed to have been a militant meeting in Dublin, the Irish Independent understands pilots made it clear they were willing to walk out rather than accept the continuing pressure of meeting flight schedules and dealing with other on-going issues.

Pilots discussed the issue and their unhappiness with current work practices at the airline.

Sources said they are “actively discussing a strike ballot” over their terms and conditions of employment. They claimed the pilots are protesting over basic rights, including access to drinking water on flights, and said they are expected to move at short notice to new bases.

“All the pilot associations across Europe are having meetings,” said a source.

“The purpose is collective action in protest at management because terms and conditions are so bad.

Read more: 'It is clearly a mess...we sincerely apologise' - Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary

“Ryanair pilots are being actively headhunted.

“Although a large number have left for Norwegian, a hell of a lot more have gone elsewhere.

“I don’t know how many resignations there might be in the next six months.”

They claimed the budget airline is haemorrhaging pilots but does not know the full extent of its losses because a substantial number are in ‘holding pools’ at other airlines.

This means they had successfully completed the selection process, but did not have a start date yet.

They said shortages have arisen as budgets for training pilots have been slashed.

Sources claimed other airlines that are poaching the airline’s pilots aside from Norwegian include Lufthansa and Air France.

Aer Lingus is expected to advertise for 200 Dublin-based pilots next month.

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