Ryanair to recruit 2,000 pilots over next three years after planes order

Ryanair is aiming to recruit another 2,000 pilots over the next three years to help rebuild the airline’s passenger numbers after the Covid-19 pandemic as it takes delivery of more than 200 Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

The airline received its first 737 Max planes from Seattle last month and plans to take delivery of more than 50 this summer to start ramping up schedules next year.

Ryanair has dubbed the Boeing plane its “gamechanger” because of the greater fuel efficiency and seat capacity of the new model, compared with its existing 737 fleet.

The chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said last month that passengers would be allowed to switch flights if they were uncomfortable travelling on the recertified 737 Max planes, which were grounded worldwide after two fatal crashes killed 346 people in its first months of service.

The airline said it would prioritise existing pilots for promotion to captain grades, while aspiring pilots could train now to join as cadets in 2022. Pilots at Ryanair took pay cuts and unpaid leave during the pandemic, with up to 3,000 staff initially expected to be laid off under plans announced last May.

Ryanair’s people director, Darrell Hughes, said: “As we take delivery of more than 210 Boeing 737-8200 gamechanger aircraft, Ryanair will recruit 2,000-plus pilots over the next three years to fill positions created by this growth. This is great news for experienced and aspiring pilots but also for our own pilots who will enjoy fast-tracked promotions.

“Throughout the pandemic, Ryanair has worked closely with our people to save jobs and we are delighted to start planning for a return to growth over the coming years as we recover from the Covid-19 crisis and grow to 200 million guests by 2024.’’

The airline’s bullish announcement of growth plans came as uncertainty remains over aviation’s immediate recovery despite the potential unlocking of much travel from next week.

Heathrow, Britain’s biggest airport, said on Monday that its passenger numbers were still almost 90% down on pre-pandemic 2019 levels, while European rivals were seeing fast growth in cargo volumes.

Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, urged the government to extend the relaxation of quarantine rules for double-vaccinated UK nationals to US and EU nationals for a bigger economic “kickstart”.

He said: “These changes will be critical for exporters who are losing out to EU rivals, and families who have been separated from loved ones.”

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