Ryanair says sorry to passengers saying striking pilots have ‘great jobs’

Pilot strike action leads to cancellation of 2,500 customers’ flights

Ryanair pilots picketing the airline’s headquarters in Swords, Co Dublin on July 24th Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Ryanair pilots picketing the airline’s headquarters in Swords, Co Dublin on July 24th Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

 

Passengers have little sympathy for striking Ryanair pilots who have “great jobs” earning up to €200,000 a year, the airline’s chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs has said.

About 2,500 customers have been disrupted by today’s stoppage by members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) – part of trade union Fórsa. It is their third strike at the airline this month.

They are in a dispute with Ryanair over base transfers, promotions, leave and other issues. Mr Jacobs said three-quarters of its pilots in Ireland continuing to work as normal are “putting customers first”.

“I don’t think the travelling public in July and August have much sympathy for people who are making €150,000 to €200,000 a year, work five days and then get four days off – these are great jobs,” he said.

Mr Jacobs said the airline has made “great progress” in implementing union agreements internationally since it first decided to recognise unions just last year.

“We want to make the same progress in Ireland,” he said, but accused Ialpa/Fórsa of not taking negotiations seriously. “The strikes aren’t working.” “More strikes should be averted. They are done at this time of year to try to have maximum impact, but they are not working,” he said.

Mr Jacobs said “most of what the pilots are looking for” has been offered in Ryanair proposals to end the deadlock “if they would just respond to those proposals.”

Union demands

But he said some of the union demands “would actually be bad for Irish pilots” and rejected attempts to “copy and paste” the Aer Lingus pilots agreement into Ryanair. “That simply won’t work,” he told RTÉ Radio One.

“Aer Lingus is a flag carrier, one big base airline and you cannot take that and say it is going to work in Europe’s biggest airline operating in 35 markets with 85 big bases.”

He added: “We will find a middle ground, it always happens in these cases.”

Ialpa/Fórsa has outlined 11 terms that it says must be the basis for any resolution of the dispute, which sparked the first ever strike by Ryanair’s Irish-based pilots earlier this month.

However, Ryanair maintains that these conditions are unworkable for an airline of its size and are only suitable for smaller carriers.

Responding to the comments, a Fórsa spokesman said pilots were well paid, but the dispute was not over salary levels. “This dispute is not about money. Yes they [pilots] are well paid, they are highly skilled and carry a lot of responsibility,” a spokesman said.

In a statement on Tuesday Ryanair said the “unnecessary” strike was down to “a small minority of Irish pilots (25 per cent).”

The union spokesman said there were over 110 pilots involved in the industrial action, representing around a third of total Irish Ryanair pilots. Fórsa represent directly employed pilots, and do not represent agency pilot staff, or those on self-employed contracts, the spokesman said.

The main issue pilots were raising related to base transfers, which is how decisions to transfer pilots between bases are made within the airline, a Fórsa spokesman said.

Ryanair have over 80 bases across Europe, and pilots will be stationed in a given base. Currently pilots can be transferred between bases at the discretion of the company.

“We are looking to give transparency to the decisions around who is moved to . . . base it on seniority. So that if you have two pilots, and one has to move to a given base, the more senior staff member will be given first choice to move or not,” the Fórsa spokesman said.