The holidays are one of the busiest seasons for the airline industry at large. Between vacations to warmer environs and people traveling cross-country to spend time with distant family, any upset with staff, from air traffic control all the way up to the pilots can mean cancelled flights and lost business. American Airlines narrowly avoided mass cancellations this December after a scheduling list allowed legions of pilots to request vacation days. The carrier managed to avoid catastrophe by negotiating with AA’s pilots’ union, a step another carrier is now considering to avoid their own holiday disaster.
Founded in 1984, Dublin, Ireland-headquartered Ryanair Ltd. has managed to establish itself as one of the most recognizable low-cost oriented carriers. With a fleet size topping 400 and destinations across 34 countries, Ryanair manages to be Europe’s top airline in terms of sheer passenger volume both domestically and internationally. The company has steadfastly avoided having its pilots unionize, instead opting to negotiate with them directly. However, this policy may be coming to an end as many of Ryanair’s pilots threaten strikes ahead of 2017’s holiday season. In response, the carrier is reaching out to unions in six of the countries it operates.
Ryanair officials are calling for meetings with union leaders from Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the UK to discuss the possibility of recognizing established pilots’ unions in these countries. The call comes ahead of a walkout scheduled by their Dublin pilots, set to happen on December 20th. While the carrier is moving towards union recognition, they have maintained their position of not working with pilots who also fly for competing airlines. With only days to go before the walkout, some are questioning if the carrier’s plan comes soon enough.
This isn’t the only disaster to face the carrier this year. Earlier in 2017 Ryanair made the decision to ground thousands of flights in an effort to streamline its operations. Between November of this year and next March, 18,000 flights and 400,000 flight bookings were cancelled. The policy change, like American’s computer glitch, also interfered with holiday vacation schedules which led to further cancellations. Had Ryanair allowed pilots to unionize earlier, it could have offered them an immediate solution to fix the staffing problem. The carrier may finally be taking the right step but it’s unclear if their actions come soon enough for 2017’s Christmas season. Ryanair executive Michael O’Leary said he hopes the talks can result in an agreement “early in the new year.”