RYANAIR boss Michael O’Leary has warned that they may face strike action at the airline this year as he continues to engage in talks with pilot unions.
In an overview of the airline’s 2018 forecast, Mr O’leary claimed the outlook for the Irish airline - which has been in discussions with pilots since December, when it agreed to recognise trade unions for the first time in its history to avoid Christmas strikes - is a "cautious" one.
He explained: “As we finalise union discussions along similar lines to that agreed in the UK, we expect some localised disruptions and adverse PR so investors should be prepared for same."
He added: “In certain jurisdictions unions representing competitor airlines will wish to test our commitment to our low cost, high pay/high productivity model to disrupt our operations. We are fully prepared to face down any such disruption if it means defending our cost base or our high productivity model.”
Last month the budget airline – which remains the largest in Europe - recognised the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) in a historic agreement for commercial airline pilots in Europe.
The decision followed an announcement before Christmas that it was changing its stance towards trade unions and was willing to enter into discussions over recognising them.
It marked the first time in Ryanair’s 32-year history that the carrier has recognised a union, and comes after it was forced to cancel 20,000 flights last Autumn due to a shortage of standby pilots.
As talks with other unions now continue, the airline is expected to also extend union recognition to cabin crew.
Speaking today, Mr O’Leary confirmed: "After 30 years of successfully dealing directly with our people it became clear in December that a majority of pilots wanted to be represented by unions.
“In keeping with our policy to recognise unions when the majority of our people wanted it, we have met pilot unions in Ireland, UK, Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Belgium and France to discuss how we can work with them on behalf of our people.
“We have successfully concluded our first recognition agreement with BALPA in the UK, a market which accounts for over 25 per cent of our pilots.
“When this process has completed, we expect to have similar engagement with cabin crew unions.
He added: “While union recognition may add some complexity to our business and may cause short-term disruptions and negative PR it will not alter our cost leadership in European aviation, or change our plan to grow to 200million traffic p.a. by March 2024.”
In this morning’s statement Mr O’Leary predicted the company's full year traffic for 2018 to grow by eight per cent, with fares expected to fall by three per cent over the course of the year.
However, he stressed that the airline remains concerned at the “uncertainty” around Brexit and the “strong risk” of it disrupting flights between Britain and Europe.
“We remain concerned at the continuing uncertainty surrounding the terms of the UK’s proposed departure from the EU in March 2019," he said.
“There remains a worrying risk of serious disruption to UK-EU flights from April 2019 unless a UK-EU bilateral (or transitional arrangement) is agreed in advance of September 2018,” he said.
“We, like other airlines, need clarity on this issue before we publish our summer 2019 schedules in mid-2018 and time is running out for the UK to develop and agree these solutions.
“We believe the UK government continues to underestimate the likelihood of flight disruptions to/from the UK.”