Ryanair recognizes pilot unions for first time in bid to stop Christmas strikes

Key Points
  • Ryanair is to recognize unions for the first time ever
  • The airline could suffer if a strike on December 20 goes ahead
  • Shares listed in London dropped more than 1.5 percent following the news
Passengers board a Ryanair flight at the Frankfurt-Hahn Airport
Ulrich Baumgarten | Getty Images

For the first time in its history, Ryanair is to recognize unions as it looks to avoid strike action by its pilots during the week leading up to Christmas Day.

A 24-hour-strike by some of the Irish airline's pilots in Ireland, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal is set to take place on December 20.

In a statement Friday, the company said it has written to the pilot unions of those countries, inviting them to talks. This marks the first time in Ryanair's 32-year history that it has recognized unions as a representative body for its pilots.

Michael O'Leary, Ryanair chief executive, said he wanted to "remove any worry or concern" that passengers could have over Christmas travel.

"If the best way to achieve this is to talk to our pilots through a recognized union process, then we are prepared to do so," he said. "We have written today to these unions inviting them to talks to recognize them and calling on them to cancel the threatened industrial action planned for Christmas week."

Ryanair shares listed in London dropped more than 1.5 percent following the news.

Long-term story for Ryanair is labor union unrest, analyst says

If the strike takes place, it would be the first in Ryanair's history and would be another blow following disruptions earlier in the year. In September, the budget airline canceled thousands of flights after mismanaging the holiday schedule of its pilots.

The disruption affected an estimated 700,000 Ryanair customers and the airline estimated it would need to set aside around 20 million euros ($23 million) in compensation.

Despite its struggles in 2017, Ryanair shares are still up by 10 percent from the start of the year.

In October, the firm revealed healthy half-year results and said, assuming no strikes take place, it remained on track to post a full-year profit of at least 1.4 billion euros.