Ryanair says there is still time to agree deals with unions and avert a major strike across four European countries later this month.
It made its comments yesterday as it announced plans to recruit and train up to 450 pilots under a new training programme at a Cork flight school over the next five years. The deal will create 50 jobs at Atlantic Flight Training Academy (AFTA) — doubling the business.
The airline’s marketing director, Kenny Jacobs, said despite the industrial unrest during the summer, increased staff costs as a result of union deals, and rising jet fuel costs, the airline has kept disruption to a minimum and kept fares low.
And he said despite the threat of strikes by airline staff in Portugal, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands on September 28, a deal with Italian unions announced yesterday can be replicated with unions in other countries over the next two weeks.
“If there is disruption at all it would be very small,” he said. “I noticed a reported that this will be the biggest ever strike but there may be no strike because we will continue to meet these unions between now and September 28. There may be no strike and if there is it will be small and we will manage it.”
He also said they plan to have industrial relations deals in all of its markets Christmas.
“I expect we will get to Christmas with deals done with everyone — and that takes away the uncertainty,” he said. “The risk of disruption will go away — we will do deals with the unions.
He said Ryanair’s management and board are serious about working with unions.
“I think we have done an incredible job — we are only recognising unions for nine months. In those nine months we have deals done, collective labour agreements, with pilots and cabin crew unions in most of our markets. Other than that, life goes on, bookings go on and our customers keep booking cheap fares with us.”
The new training programme with AFTA, worth an estimated €3m, will train pilots over 16-months from zero hours to ready to fly a Boeing 737.
Ryanair’s head of crew training, Captain Andy O’Shea, insisted its pilots will have the best rosters in aviation, with captains earning up to €200,000 a year.
He also guaranteed job security as the airline begins to take delivery next year of the first of its new 201 Boeing 737 Max aircraft.
AFTA managing director, Captain Mark Casey, described the new contract as “monumental and transformative” for the flight school.
“The programme will give successful applicants a clear path towards a long and successful career as a Ryanair pilot,” he said.
The airline plans to recruit up to 1,000 pilots per annum over the next five years. Tanaiste Simon Coveney hailed AFTA as a major success story.
AFTA has established itself as an industry leader in training and this announcement confirms that,” he said.