Ryanair is planning to hire 2,000 pilots over the next three years in one of the aviation industry’s biggest recruitment drives since the start of the pandemic.
The hiring spree will add to the current roster of 5,000 pilots at Europe’s largest airline. It is also aiming to increase annual passenger numbers by more than a third within three years over pre-pandemic levels.
“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 200m guests by financial year 2024,” said Darrell Hughes, people director at Ryanair.
In May last year, the company had warned that it would need to cut 3,000 jobs but said it escaped without making any of its pilots redundant during the pandemic. Some cabin crew have lost their jobs.
However, its pilots did agree to take a 20 per cent cut to their pay, which will be restored to its original levels over four years.
Ryanair said it needed more pilots to operate its new Boeing 737 Max jets — the first delivery of its order of more than 210 arrived last month. The new aircraft should help the company to reduce fuel use, carbon emissions and costs.
Ryanair will start training pilots this year, aiming to have them ready to fly by next summer.
Its investments in planes and staff contrast with difficulties elsewhere in the industry. As of April, more than 18,000 pilot jobs are threatened or have been permanently lost during the pandemic, according to the European Cockpit Association.
Ryanair is betting on pent-up demand for when curbs on overseas travel ease. Chief executive Michael O’Leary reckons that rivals will be unable to meet that demand, forecasting a 20 per cent fall in the number of short-haul seats available in Europe over the next few years.