Ryanair, the aggressively low-cost airline, has had a turbulent week. First it announced that it will cancel about 2,000 flights because it failed to properly schedule vacation time for pilots. Now, besides angry customers, Ryanair will also have to cope with grumpy flight crews: Yesterday, CEO Michael O’Leary said the carrier may take back some pilots’ holiday time next month.
“We don’t need their agreement,” O’Leary said, according to the Financial Times (paywall). “It is part of our working agreements with the pilots and our rostering agreements that if we need to take back holidays—with reasonable notice we can do so.”
Some 315,000 Ryanair customers are expected to be affected by the cancellations over the next six weeks, but the airline’s investors have had a pretty smooth ride—the airline’s share price rose on Friday, nearly back to where it was before the scheduling snafu emerged. They showed their satisfaction yesterday when O’Leary was re-elected to the board (pdf) with the support of 99.3% of shareholders at the company’s annual meeting.
Ryanair’s crisis was due in part to a change in Irish labor laws that forced the airline to compress a year’s worth of vacation into a nine-month transitional period, according to Bloomberg. The airline has struggled to meet that requirement while also accommodating training days, stand-by shifts, and scheduled flights. The company says it’s drawing a line under the mess: 95% of the customers affected by the recent turmoil will be refunded or given new flights by the end of the week, and profits for the full year won’t be impacted.
The carrier’s pilot shortage was probably exacerbated by rival budget-airline Norwegian Air, which has been poaching its cabin crews. But the competition from Norwegian has created one bright spot for pilots that may have to cancel holiday plans next month: Ryanair is offering captains €12,000 ($14,400) to work extra days, according to the Irish Independent, and pilots at some major hubs are also being offered extra pay to keep them from leaving.