Easyjet's soft approach

Ryanair's hard approach

EasyJet says it has a “conscious policy of care” for its employees on the assumption that they will then take care of the airline’s customers. Chief executive Andy Harrison, who joined in November last year from motoring services and vehicle leasing group RAC/Lex, says he has since met with both frontline crews and the UK Civil Aviation Authority “to get their perspective on how we stack up”.

Harrison says the CAA is “happy” with the company’s relationship with its crews, while pilots and cabin personnel uniformly praise the training provided by EasyJet. “They have beefs about all kinds of different things, but the one thing they are unanimous about is the training quality,” he says.

Chief operating officer Mike Szucs says a lot depends on how the management team approaches the pilots. “There’s two ways to go: you can either be very prescriptive and tell them off and tell them how to do everything,” he says, “or you can trust that since we select and train the pilots to a high standard, we’re going to treat them as top professionals. If you take that leap of faith you take a whole new approach.”

EasyJet made a conscious decision three years ago to take the latter approach, Szucs says. “We went from a very prescriptive stance – and perhaps more of a disciplinary approach to running the operation with lots of manual amendments, lots of notices to crews, people being asked to account for themselves – to a rationalisation of notices to crews so only really significant ones went out, but a more comprehensive education and training programme. The response to that has been absolutely fantastic. We have begun to see really significant [performance] improvements over the last three years.”

Ryanair takes a tough stance on the performance of its pilots. “We have a zero-tolerance approach if crews fail to adhere to standard operating procedures,” says head of flight operations Ray Conway. Ryanair also exercises tight control over its operation. “There is a conference call for all 16 bases at 08:00 each day following an email from each centre about local [punctuality] performance,” says deputy director flight operations Shay Warren. “We chase 3min delays. If a pilot reports a 1min delay it is because he thinks it needn’t have happened.” Shay says the purpose is not punitive, but simply to identify where punctuality problems occur and why.

Ryanair’s relationship with its pilots has been marred by litigation. The airline recently had to reinstate a senior captain after losing its Irish High Court case against him, and two other issues are still the subject of litigation, one concerning Irish employment law and the other the airline’s allegation that the Ryanair European Pilots’ Association website repaweb.org has been a source of organised intimidation against its pilots.

It was against this background that all Ryanair bases except London Luton rejected the company’s offer to replace the five on/three off roster with five on/four off scheme that had conditions attached. These conditions were so complex that, although the Stansted base deal gave crews a net 11 extra days off per year clear of any duty, the rejection level was more than 90%, say the employee representative committees.

The fact that 12 of the 29 days’ annual leave would be allocated by the company, where none had previously been proscribed, was a major factor, according to the committees, which say they were not consulted formally during the negotiations.

Source: Flight International