In a frankly astonishing turnaround, Ryanair has stated it will commence talks to recognise pilot unions. This is in response to strike action due to commence on 20 December.

Ryanair has steadfastly refused to consider negotiating with unions throughout its history, so this is huge news. What it does is bring Europe’s largest airline more and more towards being a regular airline.

Ryanair’s Statement On Unions

Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, states “Recognising unions will be a significant change for Ryanair, but we have delivered radical change before, most recently when we launched Ryanair Labs and our highly successful Always Getting Better customer improvement programme in 2013.”

He’s not wrong at all there. The first signs that things were changing is when, as stated above, the airline decided to woo customers by providing some service rather than none.

Market analysis revealed the airline was losing passengers to competitors due to their unfriendly attitude towards the very people that fly with them. As a result, a huge turnaround and change in culture that has been beneficial to the airline and those who fly with them.

The Line Between LCC and Legacy Airline Blurs

It is fascinating to see how the low cost carriers – upstarts of the industry and former disruptive entrants – are now becoming a lot like the airlines they were originally trying not to be.

Just as the legacy carriers have removed free food in economy class and unbundled their product, the low cost carriers have started offering business friendly fares to capture that segment of the market.

All this does is bring all the airlines closer and closer to being the same. Now that Ryanair will recognise unions, it could mean their collective bargaining power increases salaries and increases the airlines costs.

Perhaps Michael O’Leary is mellowing in his old age. The threat of a strike in the past probably would have just resulted in him ignoring it or pointing out it was only a few bad apples. Not today, this is the new friendlier Ryanair.

Overall Thoughts

What next, a Ryanair Frequent Flyer programme? On board catering that is actually decent and is not a total insult? Perhaps international flights on Boeing 747s?

You never know what is going to happen when it comes to Ryanair. It seems all cards are in play if they are planning to recognise unions. It could well be a cheeky ploy to avoid the strike. “Don’t strike, we’ll recognise unions!” then come January bring up reasons as to why they are not going to recognise unions after all.

This could be a high stakes game, so I’ll be watching it closely. What do you think of all this? Are Ryanair acting with good faith or could it go either way? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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All images via Ryanair.