Belfast Telegraph

Shareholders blast 'boo-boo' over flights as Ryanair chief vows: I'll fix it

By Staff Reporter

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 2,000 flights this month and next.

During a meeting with shareholders at the airline's AGM in Dublin yesterday, 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 annual pay rise on top of a €12,000 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" that the crisis had caused to the company. Mr O'Leary told them that, to prevent further cancellations, pilots who had 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. 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," he said.

"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."

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 annual pay rise where there are recruitment problems such as London Stansted, Dublin, Frankfurt and Berlin.

He said that pay for pilots 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 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 had not threatened industrial action and that there was no problem between the airline and its pilots, and said there had been no demands for new contracts.

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," he said.

"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."

The six weeks of flight cancellations have cost the airline around €25m.

Belfast Telegraph

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