Ryanair pilots have rejected a cash offer to cover holiday rota gaps raising the prospect of more flight cancellations at the crisis hit airline.
Pilots from across Europe turned down the €12,000 bonus to give up days off telling management that the “market is changing”.
Unless the situation shifts dramatically over the coming days, pilots will “work to rule” and fulfil their contracted hours only – which could lead to more cancellations.
In a leaked letter, pilots said: “The pilot market is changing, and Ryanair will need to change the ways which the pilots and management work together to ensure a stable and common future for everyone”.
New contracts, it says, “should help stop the large number of colleagues who are leaving for “greener pastures”.
It is understood the letter represents the view of pilots at 30 of the airline’s 80 European bases. Their first officers have also been offered €6,000 to work days off.
Ryanair pilots are, in effect, self-employed. The bonus was apparently contingent on pilots having logged at least 800 flight hours over the course of the previous year, but the letter claims few will meet this threshold.
Rival airline Norwegian, which has established a hub in Dublin alongside Ryanair, is known to have poached some 700 pilots this year alone, offering better pay and conditions.
The no-frills airline has been swamped by a storm of bad headlines over the past week.
It announced last weekend that because of a “mess up” in holiday rosters, it did not have enough pilots to fly all of its services over the six weeks until the end of October.
Passengers were being told just hours before they were due to take off that their flight was cancelled, often leaving people stranded abroad or stuck at home.
By Monday, the pressure was on the airline to reveal just how many flights in the six-week period would be axed and on Tuesday, Ryanair revealed the more than 2,000 services that would no longer fly.
Flamboyant boss Michael O’Leary vowed to personally sort the crisis but as many as 315,000 passengers have been caught up in the debacle.
He said just 2% of flights were affected, that it was by no means his “biggest cock-up” and pledged that all due refunds and compensation would get it.
He is due to face shareholders at an AGM later on Thursday and speak to media after.