Ryanair and pilots keep key numbers under wraps

Uncertainty for passengers as pilots vote for industrial action

Eighty-four ballots were issued to Ryanair pilots, of whom 79 pilots voted for industrial action. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Eighty-four ballots were issued to Ryanair pilots, of whom 79 pilots voted for industrial action. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

 

For the second time in a matter of months, Ryanair’s passengers are caught in the middle of a potential crisis at the airline.

Irish pilots have voted for industrial action. When, and for how long? We don’t know. It could even be before Christmas. How many flights affected? We don’t know.

In fact, as with the airline’s first self-inflicted crisis when it announced a rolling cancellation of flights due to staff shortages, the last people to get any clarity from the airline, or its pilots, on the scale of the threat to flights are the passengers.

The catalyst for the current dispute lies in the chaos that surrounded that fiasco over flight cancellations – or, more accurately, pilot fury over how they felt they had been depicted by senior executives at the airline, including chief executive Michael O’Leary.

It isn’t that many were not nursing grievances before that but Ryanair’s deliberately diffuse staffing structures – non-unionised, segmented by base for negotiations and heavily reliant on more vulnerable contract staff – had largely succeeded in heading off trouble.

But the perceived slights during the autumn cancellations saw disgruntled staff coalesce in a more organised and structured way. Italian pilots are due strike on Friday. Dublin now may follow suit.

About 700,000 passengers were affected last time and the airline provided clarity only when the price of not doing so became evident.

What would the impact of and the reaction to a strike at Ryanair be? No one knows. What we do know is that 84 ballots were issued and 79 pilots voted for industrial action. It is understood that this number comprises mostly captains.

The numbers seem low but it’s difficult to judge the likely impact as neither the airline nor the pilots are able to say how many Ryanair pilots are actually employed in Dublin. No information has been made available on how many are staff (with voting rights) and how many are contract (without votes), nor even how many captains are attached to Dublin.

All of which means people looking to book flights – or wondering whether their Christmas trips are in peril – are in the dark. As usual.

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