Cri­sis-hit Ryanair ‘needs 3,300 more pilots to hit tar­gets’

O’leary de­nies oper­a­tion is strug­gling to keep pace with re­mark­able growth

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE - Fearghal O’con­nor

BE­LEA­GUERED Ryanair must hire 3,300 pilots if it is to hit am­bi­tious growth tar­gets that it has set for it­self, ac­cord­ing to se­nior avi­a­tion sources.

The low-cost car­rier is cur­rently can­celling about 50 flights a day be­cause of what it de­scribed as a “sig­nif­i­cant man­age­ment fail­ure in our ros­ter­ing de­part­ment”.

But the air­line re­mains con­fi­dent it can carry at least 200 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year by 2024, when it will have in­creased its fleet from the 400 Boe­ing 737s it flies to­day to 520, ef­fec­tively a 4pc in­crease in air­craft ca­pac­ity each year.

Up to 5pc of Ryanair pilots leave for other air­lines each year. It is also in­creas­ing the crew ra­tio on its air­craft to pro­tect against the type of can­cel­la­tions it has forced on more than 300,000 of its pas­sen­gers this au­tumn.

This means Ryanair, which has 4,200 pilots, will need to hire more than 3,300 pilots be­tween now and 2024 — or close to 500 pilots every year, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try sources with ex­pe­ri­ence of ros­ter­ing and flight plan­ning.

“It is im­por­tant for Ryanair that this is­sue is por­trayed as a once-off, but that does not make sense,” said the source. “It looks to me like there is a sys­temic flaw in the model as it grows and grows. The fo­cus has al­ways been on the abil­ity to steadily in­tro­duce new air­craft to match growth, but ca­pac­ity is not just about the num­ber of planes. You need the crew to fly these planes.”

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Michael O’leary — who de­nied to this news­pa­per that the air­line’s oper­a­tion was fail­ing to keep pace with its re­mark­able growth — has pledged to hire 600 pilots by next May.

But the most re­cent train­ing class of 100 newly-re­cruited pilots has been de­layed for weeks be­cause of the ros­ter­ing cri­sis. “All our flight sim­u­la­tors are full 20 hours a day just to keep up,” said a well-placed com­pany source.

Ryanair also faces a mount­ing in­dus­trial rela- tions cri­sis as pilots — many of whom are not em­ployed di­rectly by the air­line — seek bet­ter con­tracts.

At Dublin Air­port and at least three other key hubs, the air­line has been forced to of­fer a €12,000 bonus to pilots in re­turn for giv­ing up some an­nual leave en­ti­tle­ments, which the pilots have re­jected.

It has been re­ported that ri­val Nor­we­gian has poached up to 140 pilots from Ryanair in Dublin, with spec­u­la­tion that Ryanair pilots have also gone to other air­lines. Ryanair, which did not re­spond to a query on its fu­ture hir­ing needs, has de­nied that it is haem­or­rhag­ing pilots.

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