A minor departure from our normal topics today but one that bears some investigation. Our European visitors will doubtless have heard of Ryanair’s current flight cancellation drama, with pilots seemingly abandoning the airline for greener pastures (Norwegian seem to have been fishing for Ryanair’s pilots with a rather large net) and their leave being mismanaged by the company. Several people found out their flights had been cancelled, by text, while they were at the airport waiting to board! The company says that there’s a backlog of holiday to be taken and they’ve made a mess of sorting it out, but here’s the thing – it’s a problem entirely of their own making.
Here’s the kicker – it’s not all what you or I would call leave. Ryanair’s pilots are often not employed by the airline….they’re effectively self employed through another company with the effect that under Irish law they cannot work for 12 months continuously. This forces each pilot to take an unpaid month off so that Ryanair can claim they’re self employed and the airline doesn’t have to contribute to the tax, pension, healthcare and welfare systems in the countries that person lives and works in. Sound familiar?
In addition, I’ve spoken to a former Ryanair pilot who said this:
“Once the initial 5 to 6 months of joining the company was done (the unpaid bit) it is an hourly wage so I was always paid for the flying time. Interestingly though Ryanair contractors are only paid for the length the flight is meant to take – meaning that time spent on the ground is unpaid. And critically in my eyes, the time before a flight when pilots should be preparing for the flight, checking Weather, NOTAMS*, aircraft serviceability. This is all part of the unpaid part of the day. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions with that but you wouldn’t be the first to think that perhaps it creates an incentive for less diligent pilots to rush that stage?”
Oh, and have a listen to this conversation between a radio presenter and a former Ryanair pilot. It sounds astonishing. Do you still think this is a good way to fly?
*Notices to Airmen – it’s how they know if a runway is out of use or there’s an airshow, for example.