Back in 2018, Ryanair was facing a grounding of approximately a third of its fleet over a problem with maintenance certificates before the company’s Chief Operations Officer (COO) stepped up and saved the day, reports indicate. The COO in question, Peter Bellew, is now leaving the Irish low cost carrier for an equivalent role at its arch-nemesis easyJet ‒ a move against which Ryanair is fighting tooth and nail in court.
The plans of Peter Bellew, Ryanair Chief Operating Officer (COO), became known in July 2019. A week after the Irish company announced that Bellew would leave by the end of 2019, EasyJet disclosed that a COO role was awaiting him at its headquarters. In response, Ryanair launched legal proceedings in the Irish High Court, arguing that the outgoing COO cannot take up the role at the competitor due to a signed agreement, forbidding such a move for a year after departure.
Now, as the legal proceedings are taking place, details emerge on the company’s affairs. The Irish Times has reported on an instance in 2018 when the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) threatened to ground 162 Ryanair’s aircraft that lacked airworthiness review certificates. The authority agreed not to proceed with the threat after Bellew “gave his word that the craft had undergone the proper maintenance checks”, according to the publication. The airline reportedly argued that the aircraft had undergone needed maintenance checks, just lacked the documents, which were later produced by the IAA’s-set date.
Among all its airlines, Ryanair currently has a fleet of 455 aircraft, planespotters.net data shows. Except for 20 Airbus A320s flown by LaudaMotion (Austrian low-cost carrier belonging to Ryanair group), the fleet is made of Boeing 737 NG aircraft.
Bellew worked for the Irish low cost carrier until 2004 as Director of Flight Operations. After leaving the company for Malaysian Airlines, where he was Chief Executive Officer, Bellew returned to Ryanair in December 2017, taking up the COO role. In this position he replaced Michael Hickey, who stepped down in the midst of Ryanair’s row with unions. Besides taking over responsibility for flight, ground operations and engineering, Bellew also got a specific responsibility for pilot production, training and career development, as well as a mission to ensure “that the pilot rostering failure which Ryanair suffered in early September will never be repeated,” the company announced in October 2017.