Ryanair Plans 300+ British Pilot Redundancies

Ryanair is planning to make 336 British pilots redundant, according to the British Airlines Pilots Association (BALPA). The union is furious that the Irish airline is holding onto substantial cash reserves in addition to recently accepting $730 million in government funding.

Ryanair is to retrench over 300 British pilots. Photo: Tom Boon / Simple Flying.

Among the first jobs to go at Ryanair, but a lot more to follow

The pilot job cuts in Britain are part of broader job cuts at Ryanair. In early May, Ryanair said it would cut 3,000 pilot and cabin crew roles, close bases, and seek pay reductions of 20% across the remaining workforce.

The airline attributed this to the worldwide pandemic-fuelled crisis, distorted European state aid, and the grounding of all Ryanair flights until at least July. Ryanair does not expect traffic to return to 2019 levels for another two years.

Ryanair thinks it will be two years before travel gets back to 2019 levels. Photo: Tom Boon / Simple Flying.

But BALPA is unmoved. Its General Secretary, Brian Strutton, said in a statement yesterday;

“The company is sitting on EUR4.1bn cash including this latest funding via the Bank of England, and its balance sheet is, in its own words, ‘one of the strongest in the industry’ yet it still wants to make redundancies and impose pay cuts.”

Late last week, the airline took the ax to 250 jobs at its Dublin, Stansted, Madrid, and Wroclaw offices. The jobs were to go through a combination of redundancies, resignations, and the cessation of contracts and probationary periods.

Unions fight back, draw attention to state funding received

The unions are fighting back over the losses, not just at Ryanair but also at British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. British Airways is contemplating making as many as 12,000 workers redundant. Brian Strutton rightly says what’s happening to his members is “miserable news.”

What the unions also have their eye on is the amount of government assistance airlines like Ryanair are receiving while still moving to sack employees.

British Airways could be forced to let as many as 12,000 workers go. Photo: Tom Boon / Simple Flying.

“The hypocrisy of Ryanair taking £600m in support from the British Government which it previously said it did not want is hardly surprising and neither is their cavalier treatment of loyal staff,” said Mr Strutton yesterday.

On Monday, Ryanair announced a full-year profit to March 31 of $1.23 billion. Rightly, it isn’t expecting its results from this financial year to be so rosy, but it is sitting on cash reserves in excess of $5 billion.

Ryanair boss not happy despite large cash reserves

That hasn’t stopped Ryanair from maintaining a campaign against what it sees as unfair airport charges and inconsistent levels of state aid for airlines across Europe.

Ryanair’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, blasted the giving of state aid to inefficient European airlines at the expense of airlines such as Ryanair.

“These are the crack cocaine junkies of the state-aid world because their first instinct is to always go to the government for state aid,” Mr O’Leary said in an interview.

Ryanair, easyjet, Peter Bellew
Michael O’Leary likened some state aid for airlines to crack cocaine. Photo: Getty Images

But Ryanair has recently received about $730 million from the Bank of England via the United Kingdom’s COVID Corporate Financing Facility.

It makes the latest announced redundancies at bit hard to swallow for Brian Strutton and his fellow unionists. Unite national officer for aviation Oliver Richardson said;

“Ryanair has significant cash reserves and is in a better place than many airlines to cope with the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has created.”

That’s all unlikely to move Michael O’Leary and Ryanair. While they hope to have 40% of flights resuming in July, their prognosis for the remainder of the year is grim. The airline is moving to cut costs and conserve capital. Those 336 British pilots are among the first of a lot more Ryanair employees set to lose their jobs in the near future.