After canceling scores of recent flights, Ryanair has offered an array of excuses, but it turns out the airline’s woes may have been exacerbated by rival Norwegian Air poaching hundreds of pilots.
It has been a rough travel season at Ryanair. The Dublin-based ultra-low-cost carrier has been somewhat circumspect about the reasons behind the airline’s abrupt cancellation of hundreds of flights – leaving industry insiders to speculate about the possible causes of the recent run of rampant operational snafus.
The latest word from Ryanair management blames mishandling of the pilot crew vacation schedule for the cancellation of tens of thousands of flights and the outright grounding of more than 30 routes since March. The airline has pushed back against any suggestion that a serious pilot shortage might be behind the unprecedented number of cancellations, but Ryanair is, at the same time, reportedly in the midst of a hiring frenzy. The company is said to be, in a number of cases, taking a second look at rejected candidates.
In a recent op-ed in The Guardian, former Ryanair captain, James Atkinson suggested that “dire working conditions” have led to a mass exodus of qualified pilots from the ranks of the airline. Atkinson flew for the company for eight years before being lured away by higher pay and better working rules in China.
“What I witnessed in those eight years left me shaking my head, and the current estimate that more than 700 Ryanair pilots have quit the airline in the last financial year does not surprise me either,” Atkinson wrote. “But there’s an underlying problem at Ryanair, which is quite simply that the company cannot replace pilots as fast as they quit.”
Taking Atkinson’s theory a step further, The Telegraph suggests that the success and rapid expansion of Norwegian Air has contributed directly to Ryan’s recent troubles. According to the newspaper, Norwegian hired 140 pilots away from the Irish no-frills carrier in just a single 12-month period.