Ryanair plans to hire an additional 125 pilots over the next fortnight as the budget airline tries to offset massive flight cancellations.
Pilots at busy airports including Stansted and Dublin would receive a €10,000 (£8,820) pay rise on top of a one-off bonus of up to £12,000 to forgo ten days’ leave in an effort to keep aircraft flying.
Widely criticised chief executive Michael O’Leary made the pledge at the airline’s annual general meeting in Dublin.
Ryanair is attempting to contain the chaos caused by a “mess up” in pilot rotas which will leave almost 2,100 flights being grounded over the next six weeks affecting 315,000 passengers.
O’Leary told the AGM that Ryanair was facing a “significant management failure” and the cancellations had cost the airline about €25 million (£22 million).
He added that about 1,000 pilots who had booked a four-week block of leave in October and November would be forced to relinquish a week, with the holiday being taken in the new year.
As reports emerged that Ryanair pilots from 30 bases across Europe were preparing to work to rule as part of a protest demanding better working conditions, O’Leary said that “if pilots misbehave that will be the end of the goodies”.
He accused some pilots of being “precious about themselves” and “full of their own self-importance”, suggesting that any fatigue problems were down to their private life, The Times reported.
“I would challenge any pilot to explain how this is either a difficult job or how anybody who by law cannot fly more than 18 hours a week could possibly be suffering from fatigue,” he said. “If there are fatigue issues among pilots in short-haul flying it’s never as a result of flying.”
But his comments triggered a rebuke from the head of the British Airline Pilots Association.
Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said: “Fatigue is endemic in all kinds of commercial flying. To suggest that pilot fatigue in short-haul operations can only occur because of the pilot’s activities outside of work is, in our view, wrong.
“Balpa is worried about what message this is giving to pilots, and what effect this management attitude has on safety culture.
“Pilots are legally-bound to report their fatigue as it can have dangerous effects on pilot performance. Ryanair appears to be telling its pilots that if they report, their attitude will be that it’s the pilot’s own fault. This is not a good way to engender an open reporting culture.”
Ryanair has cancelled up to 50 flights a week to the end of next month and admitted that only 20% of passenger refunds had been processed.
The carrier expects to have re-accommodated or authorised refund requests to more than 95% of the 315,000 passengers affected by the cancellations by the end of this week.
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