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Ryanair plans to make pilots change holidays

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image captionBoss Michael O'Leary at the Ryanair shareholder meeting

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has said the firm plans to make some pilots delay a week's holiday as it wrestles with massive flight cancellations.

His comments came at the airline's annual general meeting in Dublin.

Ryanair is cancelling 40-50 flights every day for the next six weeks, after it admitted it had "messed up" the planning of pilot holidays.

Mr O'Leary said some pilots had been offered a 10,000-euro pay rise in exchange for helping out.

He told the AGM that the offer applied to pilots at London Stansted, Dublin, Frankfurt and Berlin airports.

This is on top of a cash bonus already offered to pilots, which has been given a frosty reception.

Ryanair had offered captains a one-off payment of £12,000 or 12,000 euros, and first officers £6,000 or 6,000 euros, but representatives said they wanted new contracts and better working conditions instead.

Analysis: Simon Jack, business editor

Will the combination of unhappy customers, and the increased cost of retaining pilots, harm the very business model of the airline itself?

Could Michael O'Leary become a lightning rod for staff discontent (the way Willie Walsh did at BA) and have to stand down?

According to shareholders I spoke to today, the answers are no and no.

Mr O'Leary said the airline had "some goodies" to propose to pilots, but added: "If pilots misbehave, that will be the end of the goodies."

He dismissed talk of possible industrial action, including reported plans for a work-to-rule, saying: "There isn't a union."

He also accused unions of trying to give the company "a bloody nose" and said staff did not want union representation.

Mr O'Leary told the AGM that Ryanair was facing a "significant management failure" and the cancellations had cost the airline about 25m euros (£22m).

He said pilots who had a four-week block of holidays coming up in the next few months because of rota changes, would be told to take three weeks off instead and have the other week in January.

This partial reversal of the new holiday policy announced earlier in the week applied to 500 of the airline's 4,200 pilots, he said, and would stop cancellations rolling into November and December.

Arguing that Ryanair did not need the pilots' agreement to these further changes to their holiday arrangements, Mr O'Leary said: "There won't be more cancellations because of the rostering issues."

Analysis: Richard Westcott, transport correspondent

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The Ryanair pilots I've spoken to say they've never known anything like it.

Across Europe, I'm told, staff reps from more than 30 bases are talking on Whatsapp, co-ordinating a plan to get a better deal from their employer.

Until now, they say, they've been scattered and isolated, making them much less powerful.

Over the past few days, several have said to me how unhappy and disrespected they feel at work, yet they've never had a unified voice to bargain for a better deal.

They seem to have found that voice. One used the word "revolt".

It's hard to say where this might end up, but Ryanair really needs these people on side right now, to help it through a messy few weeks of cancelled flights.

If these pilots refuse to work extra days, more cancellations could be on the way.

'Greener pastures'

In a letter seen by the BBC, pilot representatives from 30 of the company's 80 or so European bases turned down the cash bonus offer.

They wrote: "The pilot market is changing, and Ryanair will need to change the ways which the pilots and management work together to ensure a stable and common future for everyone."

New contracts, the letter said, should help stop the large number of colleagues who are leaving for "greener pastures".

Separately, some Ryanair pilots have spoken to the BBC about a "toxic" atmosphere and how they felt "undervalued".

Ryanair has said it expects to have re-accommodated more than 95% of the 315,000 customers affected by cancellations by end of this week.

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