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Ryanair takes on competitors over crisis

© AFP | Analysts say EasyJet now has a "golden" chance to steal a march on Ryanair in the wake of its mass flight cancellations and the collapse of Monarch.

LONDON (AFP) - 

Crisis-hit Ryanair has apologised to its pilots and offered to pay more than budget airline rivals, as the likes of EasyJet look to profit from sector turbulence that continued to rumble on Friday.

Europe's no-frills airline industry flew into difficulty last month when Ryanair was forced to cancel 20,000 flights up to March, mainly owing to a shortage of pilots.

That was followed by the collapse of British budget carrier Monarch Airlines on Monday, while shares in EasyJet slid on Friday on a poorly-received trading update.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary has written to pilots with a pledge to beat pay offered by competitors and to improve working conditions over the next six months. A copy of the letter was obtained by media on Friday.

"If you have, or are considering joining one of these less financially secure or Brexit-challenged airlines, I urge you to stay with Ryanair for a brighter future for you and your family," he wrote.

In July, EasyJet -- widely regarded as a key beneficiary of a reduced Ryanair flights schedule -- set up a Vienna-based division that will allow it to fly across the European Union amid any Brexit fallout.

EasyJet said Friday that it will take a £100-million ($132-million, 112-million-euro) charge on the Brexit-fuelled slump in the pound in its annual 2016/2017 earnings.

Analysts said however that EasyJet now has a "golden" chance to steal a march on Ryanair, thanks also to the collapse of Monarch.

"Price wars typically end in the survival of the fittest," said London Capital Group analyst Jasper Lawler.

"The demise of Monarch while Ryanair bookings are in disarray presents EasyJet with a golden opportunity to capture market share."

Monarch declared bankruptcy after failing to secure fresh capital, leaving British authorities to fly home tens of thousands of customers stranded abroad, while around 2,000 staff were made redundant.

© 2017 AFP