Ryanair rival EasyJet on Thursday said it was hiring the Irish carrier's outgoing executive Peter Bellew as its chief operating officer.
Mr Bellew confirmed days ago that he was stepping down as Ryanair’s chief operating officer. Easyjet, Ryanair’s biggest low-cost competitor, confirmed yesterday that it was hiring him in the same role.
The news came as the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) stepped up an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions with Ryanair by saying it would ballot members for “possible industrial action”.
General secretary, Brian Strutton, said Balpa representatives had not been able to "make any progress at all" with Ryanair. The ballot will close in August.
Mr Bellew’s departure comes as Ryanair is restructuring itself as a holding company for several operating businesses, each with its own management.
The change will see Mr O’Leary lead the holding company and a new chief executive appointed to Ryanair DAC, the Irish-based airline likely to constitute the largest part of the group.
Easyjet announced his appointment as it reported that revenues in the three months ended June 30 rose 11.4 per cent to £1.8 billion sterling and said full-year profits could reach £440 million.
Mr Bellew (54) is from Bettystown, Co Meath. He originally joined Ryanair from Kerry Airport in 2001, where he was marketing manager. He was instrumental in doing a deal with Ryanair to fly from Farranfore airport to London.
The airline subsequently hired him as deputy head of flight operations, where sources say he showed he was an effective manager who did his job with little fuss.
He was director of flight operations when he left in 2014 to join Malaysia Air as deputy chief executive, and took the top job when incumbent Christoph Mueller, the former Aer Lingus chief, left.
Mr Bellew returned to Ryanair when relations between the Irish airline and its pilots had reached a crisis following a rostering mix-up that forced the airline to cancel flights in late 2017 and early 2018, affecting about 700,000 passengers.
At the time Ryanair said he would have “specific responsibility for pilot production, training and career development”.
The company subsequently agreed to recognise trade unions, reversing a long-standing industrial relations policy.
Mr Bellew was one of Ryanair’s representatives when it first met labour groups at the end of 2017 and early last year to begin talks on recognition and pay. – Additional reporting: Reuters