July 27, 2020 / 11:37 AM / 13 days ago

Ryanair to reconsider German base closures as pilots accept pay deal

FILE PHOTO: Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary speaks during a Reuters Newsmaker event in London, Britain October 1, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ryanair (RYA.I) on Monday said it may reconsider plans to close bases at three Germany airports after pilots over the weekend dropped their opposition to a deal that will cut pay and change working conditions to reduce layoffs.

The airline, Europe’s largest low-cost carrier, said the move means that 85% of its pilots and 75% of cabin crew across Europe have now accepted temporary cuts to pay and conditions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week Ryanair said it would close its base at Frankfurt Hahn Airport, with bases at Berlin Tegel and Duesseldorf airports likely to shut down at the end of the summer after pilots narrowly rejected the deal in a vote.

But on Monday, Ryanair said the pilot union VC had done a “u-turn” over the weekend and accepted the conditions following pressure from pilots fearful of job losses even though no second vote had been held.

The VC union did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“When the German pilots last week rejected a pay deal, we closed three German bases. We may have to relook at that now that they accepted the deal over the weekend,” Ryanair Group Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said in a call with investors.

The deal is the same one that pilots initially rejected, including a “pay adjustment downwards of 20%” and increased scheduling flexibility, said Eddie Wilson, Chief Executive of Ryanair DAC, the largest part of Ryanair Group, which also include Austria’s Lauda and Poland’s Buzz. The pay cuts are due to be reversed by 2024, Ryanair has said.

O’Leary said the airline intended to take advantage of the increased flexibility in new pay deals to opportunistically shift capacity to take advantage of cheap airport deals and COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Ryanair has said it plans to cut around 3,000 jobs due to COVID-19 disruption, but has said the number would be lower if staff accepted pay cuts.

Reporting by Conor Humphries; Additional reporting by Tom Sims

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