Ryanair flights continue to be cancelled amid threat of pilots unionizing

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By Katrina Hier

400,000 more Ryanair passengers will be affected through March 2018, with the newest flight cancellations announced in the last week of September. This comes as an update from early September, when Ryanair officials explicitly stated that no other cancellations or disruptions would occur due to the “messed up” planning of pilot vacations.  Not only have these flights and various routes over winter been cancelled, but now pilots are organizing and threatening Ryanair executives in an effort to achieve better working conditions.

18,000 flight cancellations affecting 34 routes from November through March 2018 have been announced. According to Ryanair, all affected passengers have already been notified through email.  The process for compensation is the same as was detailed in the earlier article: consumers have the option of taking alternative flights offered or partial financial compensation.  However, another recent topic of debate arose with claims that Ryanair may be potentially withholding certain alternative flight options from customers – flights unassociated with Ryanair, but rather with other airline carriers.  The Civil Aviation Authority has accused Ryanair of “persistently misleading passengers,” by not informing or offering alternative routes with different airlines.  According to CAA chief executive, Andrew Haines, “There are clear laws in place, which are intended to assist passengers in the event of a cancellation … We have made this crystal clear to Ryanair, who are well aware of their legal obligations.” Ryanair could possibly be facing legal penalties if they do not start fully complying with passenger rights regulations.

 

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair has said ““We sincerely apologize to those customers who have been affected by last week’s flight cancellations, or these sensible schedule changes announced today… From today, there will be no more rostering-related flight cancellations this winter or in summer 2018. Slower growth this winter will create lots of spare aircraft and crews, which will allow us to manage the exceptional volumes of annual leave we committed to delivering in the nine months to December 2017.”  According to the airline, the mass cancellations of these wintertime routes will remove the risk of any additional cancelled flights.

 

However, the threat of further flight disruptions persists, with the attempts of Ryanair pilots to unionize.  They have long complained of the airline’s working conditions; efforts to form any sort of union though have been met with strong opposition from CEO O’Leary, who has stated that “hell would freeze over” before he dealt with any such organizations- but he may have no other choice, considering the shortage of pilots.  Though the company claims to have recruited many new pilots, they are mainly only cadets who still need to log many more hours of training flying alongside experienced pilots.  According to a former Ryanair pilot: “There will be a large waiting list at what I call cadet level. The problem is that when experienced people leave, you can’t replace them with inexperienced people. You can’t replace a captain with one of those cadets.” Despite the pilots’ vocal threats however, a month later in November now, no clear action has been taken.  Moreover, the profits of Ryanair have not been effected by this scheduling fiasco; numbers have proven to remain steady. According to senior analyst Laith Kharaf at Hargreaves Lansdown, Ryanair could retain profits by putting more people on flights, the falling cost of fuel and an increase in passengers purchasing priority features.  With Ryanair maintaining economic security, the threat of pilots unionizing is not as severe considering the company can manage despite scheduling conflicts.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-08/ryanair-flight-cancellation-crisis-claims-first-senior-executive

 

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/sep/27/ryanair-cancel-flights-passengers-stansted-edinburgh

 

http://www.independent.ie/business/irish/ryanair-pilots-in-move-to-establish-nonofficial-union-36208255.html

 

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/oct/31/ryanair-rota-fiasco-and-cancellation-crisis-fail-to-dent-profit-drive