Pilot group questions O’Leary letter pledging better pay and conditions

‘Our members have experienced Ryanair promises before,’ says Ialpa

Ryanair letter: Michael O’Leary said he was criticising rival airlines’ pilots, not his own, at last month’s agm. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ryanair letter: Michael O’Leary said he was criticising rival airlines’ pilots, not his own, at last month’s agm. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The main group representing Irish airline pilots has questioned Ryanair’s promises to improve conditions in its most recent correspondence with its flight crews.

Ryanair on Thursday said it would pay its pilots better than rivals and give them more job security. Its chief executive, Michael O’Leary, sent pilots a three-page letter promising significant improvements to rosters, contracts and career progression over the next 12 months; it also said Ryanair would beat the pay and job security offered by its fellow Boeing 737 operators Jet2 and Norwegian Air Shuttle.

The president of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association, Evan Cullen, said: “There are a lot of promises made in the letter but no details of what the cost of these promises will be . . . Our members have experienced Ryanair promises before, and therefore we will need to carefully consider each point before we decide on a response.”

Unions have said a significant number of pilots have left Ryanair in recent months to get more secure contracts, better pay and improved conditions at rival airlines. Ryanair last week said reports it had a pilot shortage were false, saying fewer than 260 of its 4,200 pilots had left this year and that it was in the process of hiring 650 more.

In his letter Mr O’Leary repeated a promise to increase pilots’ pay by between €5,000 and €10,000 a year at four key bases, including Dublin, and to negotiate increases with pilots at other bases. He also pledged a loyalty bonus of €6,000-€12,000 for pilots still at the airline in 12 months, promised rostering changes would mean that “your days off will really mean days off” and offered to match local employment conditions where they differ from the Irish contracts under which all Ryanair pilots work.

The offers mirror demands pilots at some of Ryanair’s 86 bases made in a letter last month. Flight crews at the airline, which does not recognise trade unions, have been using social media to organise in recent months.

Mr O’Leary, who said at last month’s Ryanair agm that he “would challenge any pilot to explain how this is a difficult job”, praised his pilots in the letter, describing them as the best in the business. He also said his criticisms of pilots had been misreported and were directed at pilots of competitor airlines and their unions.