Ryanair to offer pilots extra €10,000 to stay with airline
Michael O’Leary, however, rejects claims that pilots are defecting to rivals
Ryanair plans to offer pilots in Dublin and other bases an extra €10,000 a-year to deter them from joining rival airlines, chief executive Michael O’Leary said on Thursday.
The carrier has dismissed claims that pilots defecting to rivals such as Norwegian Air is behind the problems that forced it to cancel 50 flights a-day for the next six weeks, hitting more than 350,000 passengers.
However, Mr O’Leary told the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting that it was planning to increase its Dublin-based pilots’ pay as the Scandinavian airline was trying to recruit them.
“They will have a base supplement of about €10,000 added to their pay,” he confirmed during the meeting in Ryanair’s head office in Dublin. He added that it would do the same with pilots at London Stansted Airport in the UK, and Berlin and Frankfurt in Germany.
Shortly after Mr O’Leary announced the plan, employee councils representing Ryanair pilots said that members in Dublin, Shannon and Barcelona had joined other bases in rejecting an offer of up to €12,000 to buy back a week of their leave to help deal with the crisis.
A letter from the councils to the airline rejecting the offer calls for improved conditions for pilots and warns that the market is changing. It sought a response by Friday.
Ryanair said it had received no notice of the Dublin, Shannon and Barcelona pilots’ rejection of the leave offer. Earlier yesterday, Mr O’Leary said that anonymous e-mails calling for new conditions had “no more credibility than a twitter feed”.
The airline chief executive pointed out that the pilots’ terms and conditions allowed the company to recall them from leave if necessary and said that it would do this. He also told shareholders that many pilots had indicated that they would give up time off.
Mr O’Leary acknowledged that Ryanair was dealing with either a shortage of pilots or competition from other airlines at the four bases where it was offering the extra cash.
He said that the airline had agreed these terms with the employee representative councils at each base.
Ryanair pays captains between €150,000 and €180,000 a-year and first officers between €80,000 and €120,000. It employs 4,200 pilots. The base bonus is in addition to the payment for buying out leave. The airline is also offering a €10,000 recruitment incentive to attract some grades of pilot.
Earlier this week Mr O’Leary dimissed reports that Norwegian had poached around 140 pilots from Ryanair over the last year , maintaining that the figure was fewer than 100.
While Mr O’Leary conceded that Ryanair faced some competition for pilots, he maintained the position that a mix-up over fliers’ holiday rosters was to blame for the cancellations.
Shareholder Brian Graham, who has previously warned the airline about its customer service standards, asked if the handling of the last week’s crisis singalled a return to its old “gung-ho” management style.
“It seems to me that there are bad relations with the pilots in Ryanair,” he said. Mr Graham pointed out that he had frequently heard that working for the airline was hard and management was a bit “too severe”.