Ryanair considers forced winter leave for pilots

Ryanair is apparently considering one day of forced leave in the first quarter of 2024 for each pilot to ensure full staffing during the busy summer travel period, setting up a potential pushback from pilots resisting the move.

The Irish low-cost carrier said it needs to allocate the forced day off after finding insufficient leave assigned on rosters in the January-March period, according to memos sent to pilots across Europe in December. In a letter to Italy-based Malta Air pilots, Ryanair urged employees to voluntarily apply for more ad hoc leave in the first quarter to avoid the company assigning them days instead.

The Ryanair Transnational Pilot Group said Ryanair’s move indicates a general pilot shortage as well as “a significant lack of regard and contempt toward pilots,” according to a letter shared on social media site X. The group said pilots should only be allocated forced leave when they have not applied for ad hoc days by a certain date in each quarter, and that Ryanair management is to blame for what it called planning mistakes.

The distribution and allocation of annual leave this winter is fully in compliance with our union negotiated Collective Labour Agreements and stringent flight time limitations which restrict pilots to flying a maximum of 900 hours in a year, an average of less than 18 hours per week,” a Ryanair spokesperson said. Ryanair wrote in its memo that the annual leave system depends on an adequate spread of time off across the year, particularly in the low travel season when people don’t fly as much.

Pilots typically work rosters of five days on and four days off. Their annual leave consists of ad hoc days, which can be used at short-notice, and block leave, which includes five consecutive days off.

The airline spokesperson said Ryanair was fully crewed for pilots and that applications were at record levels, calling claims of a shortage “baseless and false”.

Image accredited to Ryanair media library 

Author: FTN Editor

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