Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ryanair tries to entice rival airlines' pilots as fleet expands rapidly: Boeing says 95,000 new pilots will be needed in EU

Ryanair is seeking to poach pilots from competitors Stobart Air and CityJet as the Irish-listed carrier rapidly expands its fleet.

The Sunday Independent has learned that Ryanair will hold a recruitment day on Thursday for prospective pilots to join its ranks.

The company says it has no need to approach any rivals, insisting that it has "a flood of pilots" - a 3,000-strong waiting list, according to a spokesman - applying to join.

But in correspondence seen by this newspaper, Ryanair has invited Stobart and CityJet pilots to "drop in any time" to the Radisson Blu Hotel at Dublin Airport on Thursday.

The hotel confirmed the booking.

The recruitment move signals a renewed hiring strategy by Ryanair, which needs to hire more pilots as it seeks to substantially increase its fleet.

Ryanair plans to operate about 520 aircraft by 2024, compared to just over 300 that it had last year.

It held a recruitment event in Milan last week and is also advertising for qualified captains and first officers on its website, "due to the addition of new aircraft to the Ryanair fleet over the coming five years".

Airlines, including Ryanair, have been buying planes at an aggressive pace as they target growth, with the result that pilots are in higher demand.

Aer Lingus has also been hiring pilots and taking on cadets, with IAG planning to significantly expand the airline's transatlantic services.

Dublin-based CityJet, which last week was sold by German owners Intro Aviation to founder Pat Byrne and a group of investors, is also eyeing expansion.

Mr Byrne, who founded CityJet in 1992, said the airline was likely to pursue a stock market flotation in two to three years' time.

Such a move would presage a remarkable reversal of fortunes for the once-struggling carrier, which was bought by Intro from Air-France KLM for virtually nothing two years ago.

It is understood that pilots joining Ryanair from either Stobart or CityJet would have to be retrained and would have to pay for that retraining at a potential cost of €35,000.

Retraining could take about six months for captains currently flying turbo-prop aircraft, such as those used by Stobart Air.

CityJet pilots, who are already flying jets, would have a shorter training time.

Boeing, the world's largest plane manufacturer, has estimated that by 2034, there will be a need for 95,000 new commercial airline pilots in the European Union alone. This equates to 5,000 pilots a year.

Pilot shortage is affecting many airlines.

In February of this year, US airline group Republic Airways filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company blamed pilot shortage, which forced it to ground planes, for its bankruptcy petition.

The Indianapolis-based airline owns Republic Airline and Shuttle America, which employ 6,000 people.

Pilots are strictly regulated under law in terms of how many hours they are allowed to fly every year.

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