Aviation: Ryanair poaching European expats in Dubai?

Ryanair Holdings Plc is looking to poach pilots from Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA as the Irish discounter hits back after aircrew defections contributed to its flight-cancellation fiasco, reports Bloomberg.

Europe’s biggest budget carrier has been seeking to bolster pilot ranks after Norwegian Air and U.K. competitor Jet2, which operate Boeing Co. 737 planes similar to Ryanair’s, successfully lured away employees. The effort includes sending recruiters to Brazil and the United Arab Emirates as well as retaliating against rivals with its own poaching. The carrier has added about 830 pilots to its ranks this year, including 210 over the last three months.

With promises of “at least 25,000 euros” ($29,600) in higher annual pay, “we are now targeting direct-entry 737 pilots from both these competitor airlines this winter,” Ryanair’s Chief People Officer Eddie Wilson said in a letter to pilots on Thursday, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg.

Ryanair is battling back after a shortfall of flight crews prompted the cancellation of more than 20,000 flights affecting more than 700,000 customers. The crisis revealed the limits to the Dublin-based company’s bare-bones operations and exposed strains in relations with pilots, which are seeking to organize companywide labor representation.

To placate aircrew concerns, Ryanair will double the number of managers at its 86 bases, Wilson said. The successor for Chief Operations Officer Michael Hickey, who resigned last week, will be someone who can “lead our operations into the future and transform the way we interact with and create career progression” for pilots, the personnel chief said.

Wilson’s letter follows a similar plea by O’Leary last week that crews accept new pay offers, and warned that the deal on the table may expire if not agreed to by the end of October. Ryanair’s pilots, emboldened by the crisis and opportunities available at airlines in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, are asking for full-time contracts and better working conditions.

Meanwhile, Ryanair has sent teams to Dubai, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in search of recruits with European Union passports and more than 3,500 flying hours, according to postings on its website. Pilots were promised the “top choice of bases” in the U.K., Ireland, Spain, Italy and Poland, and benefits such as hours that allow crew to get “home to the family at the end of the day.”

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