Max delay seems to be big factor at play as Ryanair says 900 jobs may have to go

Michael O’Leary tells staff that the airline group has 500 too many pilots and 400 more cabin crew than it needs

What a difference almost two years make. In autumn 2017, as it battled the fallout from cancellations prompted by a pilot roster mix-up, many were claiming that Ryanair could not find enough people to fly its aircraft.

Now its chief executive, Michael O’Leary, is telling staff that the airline group has 500 too many pilots and 400 more cabin crew than it needs. In an internal video this week he warned that Ryanair would have to shed jobs and close or cut back bases. The airline confirmed later on Wednesday that around 900 current jobs could be affected.

O'Leary blamed falling air fares, delays in delivery of the new Boeing 737 Max, and the possible impact of the UK leaving the EU without a deal for the fact that Ryanair would have to cut jobs for the first time since it floated in 1997.

At the same time resignations have fallen to near zero, according to the airline chief. This is largely because the tough environment has limited choice for people working in aviation. Rivals such as Norwegian are retrenching while others, such as Wow Air, have closed down.

The Max delay seems to be the biggest factor at play. Boeing grounded the new craft, tailored for low-cost players such as the Irish group, following two accidents caused by a software fault. Ryanair expected to have 58 by next summer, but O’Leary now thinks this will be 30 “at best”.

Ryanair employs around 14,500 pilots and cabin crew; 900 of this comes to around 6 per cent so the figure is not insignificant. There is no real indication of where the axe will fall, but it is likely that some of the 1,000 pilots and crew that Ryanair employs in the Republic could lose their jobs.

All this comes as pilots in both the Republic and UK are balloting for strike in separate disputes over pay. Yet again Ryanair is facing some late summer-early autumn turbulence.