From Richard Westcott
Transport correspondent, BBC News
19 September 2017
From the section Business
Some pilots have blamed a lack of Employees for the cancellations
Is Ryanair short of pilots? It’s a vital question.
It could help explain why 400,000 Ryanair passengers are having flights.
But it’s tough to provide a straight answer.
Michael O’Leary, the company’s boss, is adamant that they don’t have a pilot shortage. He says the cancellations are down to a cock-up with the holiday rotas, along with air traffic control delays and bad weather and strikes.
But I got a message from former and Ryanair pilots, who are as strident that a lack of pilots would be to blame.
Some of these people told me by speaking to the media that they’re risking their jobs.
At least two used the term “droves” to describe the numbers leaving at this time. There is a market for pilots, as airlines like Norwegian and Jet2 are expanding. We all know 140 Ryanair pilots have gone to Norwegian this year. Jet2 wouldn’t give us a number.
‘Employed as scapegoats’
One pilot said that on a recruitment drive for another airline they took on were from Ryanair.
I heard: “Pilots are really annoyed at being blamed for taking vacations.” They believe they were being used as scapegoats for these cancellations.
They were all sure that the issues were “self-induced”, because people are leaving “faster than they could replace them”. And the training programmes for pilots are “weeks, even months” in arrears, so “cadets aren’t getting trained”.
Boss Michael O’Leary is adamant Ryanair does not have a shortage
Many instructors “have ceased, causing intense disruption”.
I asked Ryanair if their training department was understaffed and they said it was “untrue”.
This comment from 1 pilot sums up what most told me.
“The problem is one of crewing, and crewing only. No company plans to implement a leave system that leaves them woefully undermanned during a period. Had Ryanair had enough pilots, this wouldn’t have been an issue. However, the lack of pilots has been laid bare for all to see.”
Another said: “Bizarrely, individuals who work here are laughing, because it’s finally all coming out.”
Several talked about a “toxic” atmosphere and how they felt “undervalued”.
The company is offering a #12,000 bonus. But there is anger at the strings.
800 hours over the year must fly, extra days work, you can not take over four days’ sick leave and so on. They tell me it’s a high bar to qualify.
The people I talked to said Ryanair was a fantastic company because they make you, to join as a pilot.
But after you’ve gained experience, you can find a job elsewhere. And that’s precisely what they’re currently doing.
Like payback, it felt to me, speaking to these pilots.
Axe to grind
This all came from over a dozen staff, but that’s out of 4,200 pilots. They all contacted me they’d had enough of their employer and because they wanted a voice for their frustrations.
So they had an axe to grind. And they all admitted that they’d got , well-paid jobs that were good in contrast to many. No-one is forcing them to work at Ryanair.
The company could not have been clearer yesterday. When I asked if a lack of pilots was exacerbating the issue, they told me: “This isn’t correct. These cancellations aren’t a result of pilot shortages.”
But the staff that I talked to universally disagreed. In actuality, the business’s denial riled them .
One warned that this problem could back up again next summer, because it takes three months for a pilot to work their notice at another airline and another 3 months to train them. So you can not just employ a load of pilots at short notice.
“The only way to stop this happening again is for the company to get better at keeping its staff,” said one.