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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Ryanair pilots get pay hike but may have to change holidays

Move comes after anger from customers amid announcement to cancel up to 50 flights a day to October 31 due to change in the way pilots' annual leave is calculated

A Ryanair aircraft lands at Ciampino Airport in Rome, Italy. Tony Gentile/Reuters
A Ryanair aircraft lands at Ciampino Airport in Rome, Italy. Tony Gentile/Reuters

Ryanair is offering pay rises to pilots but may force some to change their holiday plans in an effort to avoid adding to 2,000 flight cancellations, although the chief executive Michael O'Leary denied that pilots had threatened industrial action.

The Irish airline, Europe's largest by passenger numbers, faced a wave of anger from customers after its sudden announcement last week of plans to cancel between 40 and 50 flights a day in the weeks to October 31.

It said the cancellations were because of a change in the way pilots' annual leave is calculated. There are sufficient pilots to staff flights but not enough to go on standby to deal with unforeseen issues and avoid flight delays, Mr O'Leary said.

Pilots were this week offered a bonus of up to €12,000 (Dh52,421) to work 10 additional days to alleviate the shortage and Mr O'Leary said on Thursday that pilots had collectively offered to work an extra 2,500 days since the crisis broke.

However, he denied that a large number of pilots had rejected the offer and demanded new contracts. He also denied media reports that some pilots had threatened industrial action and appeared to shrug off suggestions that employee relations could become strained.

"Will there be squabbles with pilots? There may be. They have been happening for about 30 years," he said.

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The pilots' letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, made a series of demands including the implementation of permanent local contracts under local employment law.

A source told Reuters that the letter had been approved by pilots at 17 of 85 Ryanair bases, although this could not be independently verified by Reuters.

Mr O'Leary told shareholders that the airline does not have sufficient spare pilots for September, October and November to ensure smooth operations and was considering forcing some pilots to change their annual leave plans.

About 500 of Ryanair's 4,200 pilots are due to take four weeks of leave in a single block in October, he said, so may be asked to defer one week of that leave until after January 1.

"There won't be more cancellations because of the rostering issues," Mr O'Leary told the meeting.

He said he took personal responsibility for the operational mistakes that led to the cancellations and for the poor communication of the disruption.

Shares in Ryanair were down 0.5 per cent at €16.43 at 10.41 GMT.