Belfast Telegraph

Shareholders lambast Ryanir chief over cancellation 'boo boo'

Ryanair shareholders have told the budget airline's boss that the flight cancellation controversy is a "complete cock up".

They have also demanded to know how chief executive Michael O'Leary intends to fix the "reputational damage" to the company caused by the cancellation of 2000 flights in September and October.

During a meeting with shareholders at the airline's AGM in Dublin on Thursday Mr O'Leary admitted the company had made "a boo boo."

He said that Ryanair will be taking back one week of pilots' annual leave to prevent the cancellation of any more flights caused by staff shortages.

He also said that a number of Ryanair pilots are to be offered a 10,000 euro annual pay rise on top of a 12,000 euro bonus in a bid to plug the pilot gap over the next two months.

Mr O'Leary blamed the crisis on the mismanagement of pilots' holidays.

One shareholder told him: "This is a complete cock up. You should make a large donation to a third world country and wear your sack cloths for a few weeks."

Other shareholders raised concerns about the "reputational damage" the crisis has caused to the company.

Mr O'Leary told them that, to prevent further cancellations, pilots who have booked four weeks annual leave in a row in October and November will have to reduce that to three weeks.

"A very big block of annual leave (for pilots) was over allocated for September, October and November," he said.

"Five hundred pilots with a four week block of leave booked for October and 500 in November will have to work one week of that leave.

"We will tell them, 'we will make it up to you'. They will get it back in January.

"We will be reasonable. Say a pilot has booked a family holiday to Australia, we will work with them.

"We don't need their agreement ... It is in their contracts," he added.

In a briefing to the media after the AGM Mr O'Leary said a number of Ryanair pilots are to be offered a 10,000 euro annual pay rise where there are recruitment problems such as London Stansted, Dublin, Frankfurt and Berlin.

He said pilots' pay at some of the airline's largest bases "may be a bit on the low side".

This comes on top of an offer earlier in the week of a 12,000 euro bonus to pilots to work on their days off to help fix the staffing problem.

Ryanair will complete training for a further 120 pilots within two weeks, and will recruit 500 new pilots over the next six months, Mr O'Leary said.

He insisted that this was part of normal recruitment and not connected to the current crisis.

He also insisted that pilots have not threatened the airline with industrial action and that there is no problem between the airline and its pilots.

When asked about reports that pilots are threatening industrial action, Mr O'Leary responded: "If you want and need to ask your staff to give up holidays no work to rule can alter that."

He added:"I don't even know how there would be industrial action in Ryanair. There isn't a union."

He also said there have been no demands for new contracts.

The airline boss said that emails he had received about pilot working conditions were not from Ryanair pilots and added: "I view unsigned emails the same way as Twitter feeds."

Mr O'Leary continued that the airline has "some goodies" to discuss with pilots but warned: "If pilots misbehave that will be the end of the goodies."

He denied that was a threat to pilots against taking industrial action saying: "I don't think that can be misconstrued as a threat."

Mr O'Leary accused some pilots of being "precious about themselves" and "full of their own self importance".

"(Piloting a commercial plane) is very highly skilled but I challenge any pilot to explain how it is a difficult job or how they are overworked," he added.

He apologised to the 350,000 people affected by the cancellations.

"I seriously regret these cancellations and upsetting and worrying 80 million of our customers last week.

"We are working hard and long hours to address the passengers disrupted last weekend.

"By the end of this week over 95% of customers will be rebooked or refunded," said Mr O'Leary.

The six weeks of flight cancellations has cost the airline around 25 million euro.

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