Ryanair culture ‘gone very miserable’, says airline executive

Chief operations officer tells pilots there was a culture where issues raised by staff were not addressed

The culture and tone of working at Ryanair "has gone very miserable . . . even in our head office," chief operations officer Peter Bellew told pilots recently.

"I do think we can fix it," Mr Bellew said, in a recording of a speech made to pilots that was obtained by Independent.ie.

Mr Bellew returned to Ryanair from his role as chief executive of Malaysia Airlines, replacing Michael Hickey, who resigned from Ryanair following the controversy in September where the airline cancelled a large number of flights due to rostering problems with pilots.

Speaking privately to pilots recently he said: “It seems that there was a culture that people who knew there was a problem . . . that they were not listened to, or they were actively discouraged from even raising the issue.”


Mr Bellew was critical of the airline’s current relationship with staff and said “basic, basic things that had been operated here for many years just were thrown in the basement”.

Mr Bellew previously worked at the carrier as the flight operations director, and a large part of his new brief will be to improve the relationship between pilots and management.

On Monday Ryanair for the first time agreed to recognise pilots’ trade unions across Europe, and later today the airline will meet representatives from Impact and pilots’ representatives.

The shift in Ryanair’s long-standing policy came in the face of a threatened strike planned for Wednesday among Ryanair pilots that would have affected Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports.

Mr Bellew said part of Ryanair’s problem was “we grew too fast”. He said a culture shift was needed at the airline to introduce “a certain softness and kindness that we had at a point but we seem to have lost”.

Mr Bellew was speaking to pilots at the airline’s London base in Stansted.

'Pissed off'

The executive told pilots he understood people were “really pissed off”. He said small issues that staff were raising were not being addressed.

“Or not only were they not getting done, they [staff] were getting told - ‘piss off, I don’t want to know about this,’” he said.

Mr Bellew said the airline had a big problem to overcome in retaining pilots and stemming the flow of staff leaving the airline. “Traditionally in the past where people were leaving, we would have contacted them, or we would have known in advance, and say ‘why are you leaving?’ We’d sort them out, and often they’d retract their resignation,” he said.

Mr Bellew told the pilots that culture had been lost in recent years, and that senior management had encouraged people not to contact pilots who had decided to leave, to change their mind and attempt to retain them.

“There’s a very basic lack of trust I can sense now from the pilots. We have to work very hard to restore that. I don’t expect people to accept that overnight” he said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times