Ryanair has done wonders for the growth of short-haul travel and is now Europe's largest airline. But at a time when it is cancelling over 50 flights a day (due to pilot roster issues) I am not sure it is the most popular. And I am not thinking just about public opinion but clearly from this article we can see that Mr O'Leary does not care much for those responsible for delivering his service - the pilots.
How many of us remember Leonardo diCaprio in the film Catch me if you can where he pretends to be a pilot and has four or five stewardesses hanging off his arm? Being a pilot was a glamorous job involving travel to far-flung destinations. Now, as we can read in this article, it is tiring, arduous and not as lucrative.
And yet these are the very people that we rely upon to safely transport us through the skies. I for one would be cautious of booking a cheap flight option with Ryanair now that I know that my flight has the potential to be cancelled. But I would be even more cautious now that I have read about how those charged with our safety are treated.
On the one hand you have to admire Michael O'Leary even if you don't like him (I don't think he cares whether we like him or not). He constantly breaks the rules - he has shown over the years that he does not respect his customers, and clearly from this article we can see that he does not believe in employee engagement.
But he delivers on the numbers - in May this year, Ryanair again increased profits at a time when they were cutting fares and other airlines were struggling financially. The question is how much are we prepared to put up with tired pilots and the potential hassle of cancelled flights? How important are your long breaks? How much do we now expect those holidays as a right?
But there’s an underlying problem at Ryanair, which is quite simply that the company cannot replace pilots as fast as they quit. The head of the company, Michael O’Leary, openly insults his pilots, and has consistently maintained a policy of heading off any attempt to achieve a collectively bargained contract. Ryanair’s strategy of control is based on very old divide-and-conquer tactics, keeping contracts and even methods of employment diverse among personnel in the same job. Ryanair’s pilots are spread out over more than 80 bases from Lithuania to Morocco, and from Cyprus to Shannon, another impediment to cohesion.