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After cancellation debacle, Ryanair pilots offered better pay

Amid an exodus of pilots to competitors, Ryanair has written to cockpit crews offering to boost their pay and conditions. Last month the budget airline cancelled 18,000 flights because of a shortage of pilots.

Ryanair's outspoken boss Michael O’ Leary has written to pilots promising to exceed rates of pay offered by its rivals and improve job security, British and Irish media reported on Friday.

The concession comes after the Irish airline was forced to cancel tens of thousands of flights between the end of September and March as it did not have enough standby pilots to ensure the smooth operation of its winter schedule.

O’ Leary's letter, seen by the Reuters news agency, promised "significant improvements to your rosters, your pay, your basing, your contracts and your career progression over the next 12 months." Cockpit crews were also offered a "productivity/loyalty bonus."

Watch video 01:41

Pilots revolt at Ryanair

Pilots were told that Ryanair would "beat" the pay and job security offered by fellow budget operators Jet2 and Norwegian Air Shuttle, according to Irish news site TheJournal.ie, which also viewed the letter.

Read more: Airline staff fume over toxic air on planes

The conditions mirror demands made in a letter by pilots last month. While Ryanair does not recognize trade unions, pilots have launched web and social media forums in recent months to air their grievances.

Ryanair new pilots

Ryanair has been keen to show off its newest pilot recruits on social media over the past two weeks

O' Leary's letter also urged pilots not to quit Ryanair for "less financially secure/or Brexit challenged airlines." and suggested that the firm had learned from its mistake.

The letter purportedly included a graph suggesting that one of its main rivals was in financial trouble.

Last month's mass cancellations disrupted the travel plans of some 400,000 passengers, and quickly turned into a major public relations disaster for Europe's largest airline by passenger numbers. Not only was Ryanair obliged to offer compensation, Britain's aviation regulator forced the carrier to rebook those whose flights were affected on alternative airlines.

Read more: Brexit, terrorism blamed for collapse of Monarch Airlines

The airline has seen an exodus of pilots in recent months to rivals, including Norwegian, who said some 140 Ryanair pilots had joined this year. The Irish pilots' union IALPA says some 700 pilots have left the airline this year, out of a total pilot headcount of 4,200. O’ Leary has repeated stated that his carrier does not have a shortage of pilots.

Watch video 01:40

Passengers angry as Ryanair cancels thousands of flights

Since the cancellation debacle erupted, several former Ryanair pilots have written articles in British newspapers, describing how the Irish airline insists that most of its pilots are self-employed rather than staff, doesn't permit contract negotiations, and often imposes exhausting work schedules.

Ryanair blamed a regulatory change for the crisis, saying it required all pilot annual leave be completed by the end of the year.

As the furor unfolded last month, O' Leary was forced to offer pilots a 12,000 pound bonus to forfeit their annual leave to ensure he had adequate cockpit crew. But workers' councils suggested most pilots had rejected that offer, marking a low point in relations between pilots and management.

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