Ryanair tells pilots to transfer, take unpaid leave or lose jobs


While other British airlines try to ease tensions with the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), Ryanair is choosing to go the other direction and is telling United Kingdom-based pilots to transfer overseas, take unpaid leave or potentially lose their jobs.

A memo, which was reportedly sent out on September 24, states that “significant surplus of pilots must be reduced” as the airline hopes “that there will be sufficient applications for unpaid leave/part time, so we do not have to resort to job losses” at various bases in the United Kingdom during the winter season.

Ryanair blames the  Boeing 737 MAX as the culprit of the down-sizing. On August 9, 2019, announced that it will definitively close several bases around Europe, Ryanair blamed the “late delivery of up to 30 Boeing MAX aircraft”. Less than two weeks before the announcement, Ryanair had revealed their Q1 FY2020 results, with diminishing profits and rising expenses being blamed also on the MAX groundings.

The airline’s Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary has expressed annoyance that Ryanair might receive zero 737 MAXs in 2019 – a situation which is more than likely to happen if “Boeing don’t get their s***t together pretty quickly with the regulators”, as O’Leary noted. Before the groundings, the carrier expected 58 deliveries, but now assumes that only 30 737 MAX aircraft will be delivered to it before the summer season.

The offer to take up to 12 months of unpaid leave, which was mostly encouraged due to the fact that there is a small number of available vacancies in other European bases, comes shortly after Ryanair’s BALPA pilots canceled their planned “five further days of strike action”. 

BALPA announced the cancelation of the industrial action on September 20, 2019. The union has, however, indicated that the relationship with the airline remains “acrimonious”. The union has also accused Ryanair of having “reverted to type, electing to punish pilots by withdrawing their travel benefits” instead of engaging in negotiations. Ryanair has withdrawn travel benefits for pilots after the union chose to walk out following the failed negotiations regarding the working conditions of the pilots, according to BALPA.

BALPA “retains the ability to set new strike dates should it be necessary” – and it is as if Ryanair has given them the necessity to do so with the latest announcement of potential job cuts. In an email, a spokeswoman for BALPA, Charlotte Branson, has noted that the union is “aware of the memo” and “Ryanair have offered to negotiate, but not via ACAS”. The association is considering its options. 

On September 25, Ryanair launched new routes from its home base, Dublin Airport (DUB). Starting summer 2020, four new Ryanair routes will connect Marseille (MRS), Palanga (PLQ), Podgorica (TGD) and Verona (VRN) with Dublin (DUB). Announcing the new routes, Chief Marketing Officer of Ryanair, Kenny Jacobs noted that the new routes “will deliver 17.2 million costumers per annum and support over 12,900 jobs*”, which are “on-site” at five Irish airports. The news did not include an explanation about the asterisk near the number of jobs the routes will support.


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