EasyJet pilots back plan to resolve operational pressures

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EasyJet's pilot corps has backed an agreement aimed at addressing operational concerns within the low-cost carrier, including a perceived shortage of cockpit crew.

UK pilots' union BALPA says the airline is under operational pressure as a result of a freeze on pilot recruitment put in place by former chief Andy Harrison, who has since been succeeded by Carolyn McCall.

BALPA says the freeze has "contributed to a pilot shortage", and believes this has had a knock-on effect on EasyJet's performance - including its punctuality, an issue which has resulted in frequent baiting by rival Ryanair.

But the union's general secretary, Jim McAuslan, says pilots are supporting a new £5 million ($7.7 million) agreement which is designed to improve conditions and help bring in new crews, and which will also include a "major review of pilot numbers and rostering practices".

McAuslan links the operational problems to the continuing clash between EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou and the carrier's management board. The two sides disagree over the airline's expansion strategy and have also battled in court over the rights for the carrier to retain its brand.

BALPA appears to be siding with new chief McCall who, McAuslan say, has demonstrated "encouraging signs", while the dispute with Haji-Ioannou is simply creating difficulties: "[Haji-Ioannou] is much admired in EasyJet, but risks going from 'hero to zero' and damaging the very brand on which his good name comes."