Ryanair plans to take back pilots' holidays to prevent more cancellations

The Ryanair customer service desk at Dublin Airport, as the crisis over pilot shortages and warnings that crews are rejecting cash bonuses to commit to the airline will be addressed
The Ryanair customer service desk at Dublin Airport, as the crisis over pilot shortages and warnings that crews are rejecting cash bonuses to commit to the airline will be addressed

Ryanair is planning to take back one week of their pilots' block holidays to prevent any further flight cancellations, the airline's chief executive has said.

Michael O'Leary said pilots due to take a four-week block of holidays in the next two months will be told to reduce that to three weeks.

He also said that a number of Ryanair pilots are to be offered a 10,000 euro (£8,800) annual pay rise on top of a 12,000 euro (£10,600) bonus in a bid to plug staff shortages that have led to six weeks of flight disruptions.

Mr O'Leary said pilots' pay at some of its largest bases "may be a bit on the low side".

He added that pay rises will be offered in areas where there are recruitment problems such as London Stansted, Dublin, Frankfurt and Berlin.

Mr O'Leary was grilled by shareholders at Ryanair's AGM in Dublin on Thursday about the shelving of up to 50 flights every day over the next six weeks.

He said this was down to the mismanagement of pilots' annual leave, leading to the over-allocation of blocks of holidays.

"We make mistakes. This time we made a major boo boo.

"A very big block of annual leave (for pilots) was over-allocated for September, October and November," he said.

Mr O'Leary told shareholders that to help ensure no further cancellations after the six-week period, 500 pilots with a four-week block of leave booked for October and 500 in November will have to work one week of that leave.

He insisted the leave was not being cancelled and that it could be claimed back.

"We will tell them, 'we will make it up to you'. They will get it back in January. We will offer double time, triple time.

"We will be reasonable. Say a pilot has booked a family holiday to Australia, we will work with them.

"We don't need their agreement. It is in their contracts."

Shareholders also heard that Ryanair will complete training for a further 120 pilots within two weeks, and will recruit 500 new pilots over the next six months.

Mr O'Leary said this was part of normal recruitment and not linked to the current controversy.

Briefing the media after the meeting, Mr O'Leary said pay rises of up to 10,000 euro would be offered in some hard-to-recruit areas.

He also insisted that pilots have not threatened the airline with industrial action and that there is no problem between the airline and its pilots.

When asked about reports that pilots are threatening industrial action, Mr O'Leary responded: "If you want and need to ask your staff to give up holidays, no work-to-rule can alter that."

He added: "I don't even know how there would be industrial action in Ryanair. There isn't a union."

He also said there have been no demands for new contracts.

The airline boss said that emails he had received about pilot working conditions were not from Ryanair pilots and added: "I view unsigned emails the same way as Twitter feeds."

Mr O'Leary continued that the airline has "some goodies" to discuss with pilots, but warned: "If pilots misbehave that will be the end of the goodies."

He denied that was a threat to pilots against taking industrial action, saying: "I don't think that can be misconstrued as a threat."

Mr O'Leary accused some pilots of being "precious about themselves" and "full of their own self importance".

"(Piloting a commercial plane) is very highly skilled, but I challenge any pilot to explain how it is a difficult job or how they are overworked," he added.

He apologised to the 350,000 people affected by the cancellations.

"I seriously regret these cancellations, and upsetting and worrying 80 million of our customers last week.

"We are working hard and long hours to address the passengers disrupted last weekend.

"By the end of this week over 95% of customers will be rebooked or refunded," said Mr O'Leary.

The six weeks of flight cancellations has cost the airline around 25 million euro (£22 million).