In Brief

Chastened Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary apologises to pilots

Airline promises pilots pay rises, job security and better contracts

Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary has apologised to his pilots after calling them “full of their own self-importance”, and promised them pay rises, as the beleaguered airline juggles cancelled flights, angry regulators and litigious passengers.

O’Leary lashed out at Ryanair pilots last month after an apparent staffing shortage caused by a mix-up over annual leave led to the cancellation of 2,100 flights. The combatative boss accused his staff of being “precious” and demanded to know how “anybody who by law can’t fly more than 18 hours a week could possibly be suffering from fatigue”.

But in a letter yesterday, a far less cantankerous O’Leary promised pilots “significant improvements to your rosters, your pay, your basing, your contracts and your career progression over the next 12 months”, Reuters reports.

Ryanair flight cancellations - now numbering some 18,000 and stretching into March 2018 - have disrupted a total of around 715,000 passenger bookings, but the budget airline is still a magnet for thrifty travellers looking for flights for a tenner.

Passenger numbers jumped by 10% in September, even amid flight cancellations, which “underlines the extent to which the budget carrier is still growing despite the pilot-rostering challenges that have clipped its planned expansion”, says aviation website FlightGlobal.

Rivals easyJet, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Jet 2 are circling, however, hoping to poach the Irish airline’s captains and crew. According to the Irish Airline Pilots Association, Ryanair lost 700 pilots in its last financial year. 

And there may be more trouble on the horizon. The Guardian reports that HMRC are investigating Ryanair pilots over the company’s tax structure and use of Irish limited companies to employ UK-based pilots in order to avoid paying sick pay and other benefits. 

Meanwhile, the UK Civil Aviation Authority is accusing the carrier of misleading passengers about their rights over cancelled flights and of failing to give proper information on refunds and related expenses, says the FT

Ryanair is also facing possible legal action from passengers over accusations that it intimidated people who tried to claim hundreds of pounds worth of flight delay compensation due under EU legislation, The Daily Telegraph reports.

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