Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary at the airline’s AGM in Dublin yesterday
Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary has personally apologised to the airline’s workforce for reputational damage caused by what he described as the “mess” over flight cancellations.
Mr O’Leary has also pledged to meet all Employee Representative Councils over the coming weeks to discuss their grievances.
In a broadcast to staff over an internal channel, he said management were sorry for visiting the crisis on their frontline teams, including pilots, cabin crew, check-in staff and customer service personnel, and praised their work in recent days.
…He said Ryanair had not understood that rostering numbers were low – and had certainly mismanaged the allocation of the four-week blocks of leave to pilots in September and October when they were still running the summer schedule.
He told staff that management were being assured during the summer that they had enough pilots when they clearly did not have enough to be able to allocate leave during those months.
He confirmed that Ryanair will be writing to pilots over the coming days asking those allocated a four-week block of annual leave in October, November or December to please work one of those four weeks.
He pledged to protect the other three weeks of annual leave, and allocate the fourth week later in the year.
…Meanwhile the pilots’ deadline for Mr O’Leary to respond to their demand for negotiations on better contracts has expired.
So far 55 of Ryanair’s 86 bases have rejected Ryanair’s offer of additional pay and deferred bonuses to give back leave.
The next step by either management or pilots remains unclear.
Asked about the pilots’ rejection of the company’s bonus scheme to encourage them to give up annual leave to address staff shortages, he said the Ryanair may have to take back one week of the pilots’ four week block of leave.
He said Ryanair was entitled to do this under their contracts.
Mr O’Leary said that much of the discontent was fuelled by unions among Ryanair’s competitors, and he pledged that the current difficulties would not lead to unionisation at the carrier.
Meanwhile, 33 Ryanair bases have now rejected the airline’s bonus scheme with further details from other bases expected later.
RTÉ News has seen documents which raise the possibility of a work-to-rule by pilots, which would significantly worsen the current disruption to flights at the airline.
But he [O’Leary] appeared unwilling to give any ground in his stand-off with pilots, instead threatening to cancel their time off and questioning the extent of their talents.
He said any that were due to take a four-week break in the next few months could be forced under the terms of their contract to delay one of those weeks until January.
He added: “Once you are trained and skilled at doing it … I would challenge any pilot to explain how this is a difficult job or how it is they are overworked or how anybody who by law can’t fly more than 18 hours a week could possibly be suffering from fatigue.”
More recently Ryanair has been keen to soften its image – in 2013 O’Leary said he wanted to stop ‘unnecessarily pissing people off.’ The airline has massively improved its formerly clunky website, introduced numbered seating and even created a ‘Business Plus’ class of ticket, giving those travelling for work more flexibility and a shot at some decent legroom.
…The debacle will cost Ryanair a small fortune in compensation, as well as lost revenue as those travelling in the next six weeks decide to book with another airline. But the long-term cost could be to its reputation. We imagine passengers are less willing to forgive this kind of inconvenience than O’Leary’s usual PR-hungry antics.
This comment from one pilot sums up what most were telling me.
“The issue is one of crewing, and crewing only. No company plans to implement a leave system that leaves them woefully undermanned during a peak period. Had Ryanair had enough pilots, this would not have been an issue. However, the lack of pilots has been laid bare for all to see.”
Another said: “Bizarrely, people that work here are laughing, because it’s finally all coming out.”