Strike-hit Ryanair calls talks on union recognition

London (AFP) –


Ryanair has invited pilot unions across Europe for talks on their recognition, the Irish no-frills airline said Friday as it faced strike action in Italy ahead of planned walkouts elsewhere.

"Christmas flights are very important to our customers and we wish to remove any worry or concern that they may be disrupted by pilot industrial action," Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said in a statement announcing the conditional offer to pilot unions in Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

The Dublin-based airline said it would recognise the unions "as long as they establish committees of Ryanair pilots... as Ryanair will not engage with pilots who fly for competitor airlines".

O'Leary added: "Putting the needs of our customers first, and avoiding disruption to their Christmas flights, is the reason why we will now deal with our pilots through recognised national union structures and we hope and expect that these structures can and will be agreed with our pilots early in the New Year".

In comes as Ryanair pilots and flight attendants in Italy carry out a four-hour strike on Friday.

Further ahead, Ryanair pilots based in Ireland and Portugal have strikes planned for Wednesday. Germany-based pilots have agreed to unspecified strike action.

The planned industrial action comes after Ryanair said in September that it had to cancel 20,000 flights until March because of pilot scheduling problems.

Air traffic control delays and weather disruption also contributed to the cancellations.

Despite such difficulties, Ryanair said last month it still expected to deliver annual profit after tax of 1.40-1.45 billion euros ($1.65-1.71 billion).

The airline is also seeking to capitalise from the recent collapse of smaller competitors in an oversupplied market.

Austrian carrier Niki ceased operations on Wednesday after its owner Air Berlin went bankrupt in August.

Short-haul British carrier Monarch Airlines declared bankruptcy in October.