Ryanair’s Rivals Want to Hire Its Disgruntled Pilots

Ryanair cabin crew on strike. The protesters were demanding
MADRID AIRPORT T1, MADRID, SPAIN - 2018/07/25: Ryanair cabin crew on strike. The protesters were demanding medical assistance in Spain, for the company to have its payroll in Spain and for it to recognize union delegates of the company and more. The strike caused cancellations of many Ryanair flights. (Photo by Lito Lizana/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Lito Lizana—SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Ryanair Holdings Plc’s rivals smell blood in the discount giant’s confrontation with its pilots and cabin crew and have pitched ‘Hiring Now’ signs in a bid to siphon off disgruntled staff.

British Airways is extending a pilot hiring drive “in light of industry news,” according to a recruitment manager’s post on LinkedIn, while EasyJet Plc, Britain’s biggest low-cost carrier, has announced plans to add 1,200 flight attendants. Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, lambasted by Ryanair last year for luring away scores of flight crew, said online that it’s expanding in Dublin.

Ryanair said Wednesday it may fire 300 pilots and cabin crew in Dublin as it pulls a fifth of planes from its home base this winter. Chief People Officer Eddie Wilson has advised staff to move to Poland if they want to safeguard their jobs as intensifying labor unrest triggers widespread flight cancellations.

Airlines worldwide have been grappling with a general shortage of pilots for years, while the growth of the European discount sector is spurring demand for cabin crew just as Ryanair’s confrontation with its employees heats up.

Norwegian operates the same Boeing Co. 737 narrow-bodies as Ryanair, making any switch the easiest to manage. Pilots wanting to join BA would need retraining to fly the Airbus SE A320s used by the IAG SA unit. Both carriers offer seniority routes to fly bigger Boeing aircraft on longer routes. Flight attendants can transfer between airlines more easily.

A spokesman for BA confirmed that the London-based carrier had extended its recruitment window for experienced pilots to Aug. 5, adding that it aims “to take the very best pilots who meet our high standards.”

Ryanair, Europe’s biggest no-frills airline, is struggling with a transition to organized labor after a botched scheduling of pilot leave last year led it to cave in to a unionization drive. More than 600 flights have been scrapped this week amid walkouts in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy and Ireland.

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