COO resigns, RyanAir begs its pilots to stay, faces three investigations

Storm clouds over RyanAir

RyanAir’s Chief Operations Officer Michael Hickey has ‘resigned’ over the situation at the trouble hit airline.
RyanAir’s internal head office atmosphere, which is alleged to be akin to working in a dictatorship of fear uncertainty is considered by many, and I’m one of them, to be the reason it failed to see the pilot problem coming. Who in their right mind would want to bring such a massive issue to the stormy Mr O’Leary? I suspect the problem was left to grow as solutions were sought piecemeal and it all got out of hand.

Norwegian, an airline Mr O’Leary has a deep personal animosity for, made it public that it had acquired 140 RyanAir pilots. It’s been suggested that personal verbal recommendation and rewards to those who got new pilots to sign up may have helped things along. 

What is certain is they didn’t need much encouragement. Low pay and poor conditions compared to other airlines didn’t help. Aggravated by a new tax investigation of RyanAir pilots in general, because of the way RyanAir employs them, which of course isn’t conventional. Couple that to low moral and demands for more hours and work to cover losses of colleagues, well it just couldn’t get worse. The exit light beckoned.

It didn’t help when O’Leary said that Pilots are “precious about themselves” and “full of their own self-importance”, saying: “I would challenge any pilot to explain how this is a difficult job or how it is they are overworked, or how anybody who by law can’t fly more than 18 hours a week could possibly be suffering from fatigue.”

Having failed to get pilots to agree to take a £12,000 payment to give up their vacations, then find that most pilots were fast heading towards the 900 hour legal maximum flying time for the year, the only way out was cancelling flights. 

£30,000,000 in fines and as much again in compensation, never mind even more in flight refunds, it’s been a bad week or two for RyanAir. On top of that it’s being sued in Belgium over flight delays, and investigations have begun in the U.K. over its practice of “deceiving the British people on an industrial scale”.

So it’s trying to get back on top. Pilots have been offered big pay rises, better contracts and retention bonuses. The new package is (and a pilot told me this), “surprisingly good”. So good RyanAir thinks it might attract Monarch pilots and others from other airlines.

Even more extraordinarily Mr O’Leary has signed a letter in which he actually apologised to pilots for the situation, and virtually begs them to stay.

It’s been a long time but I think it’s time for O’Leary to go. If ever an airline needed a breath of fresh air, RyanAir is it. It’s attitude to the public, it’s pilots and its other staff has become stale, it’s not a good environment, it needs to change. Relentless growth isn’t worth the human cost.