European pilots are calling for Irish LCC Ryanair to reverse its decision to close bases in Eindhoven in the Netherlands and Bremen in Germany, as well as to reduce the number of aircraft based at Niederrhein in Germany in order to ensure progress in talks with unions. 

On Oct. 1, Ryanair lowered its full-year profit guidance and said it planned to close two of its European bases starting Nov. 5—at Eindhoven where four Boeing 737-800s are based and Bremen, Germany, where it has two 737-800s based. It also said it would cut back operations at Niederrhein, Germany to three aircraft from five.

That announcement followed the threat of a reduction in Ryanair’s Dublin-based fleet, which the company backtracked on after reaching an agreement with Irish pilots’ union IALPA.

The European Cockpit Association (ECA) said base closures and fleet reductions “are seen as a declaration of war to the crew across the whole network” in an Oct. 12 statement following a meeting of the presidents of European pilot unions and associations in Vienna.  

The ECA added: “There is concern that this latest development will seriously exacerbate the recent deterioration in the relationship between the airline and its pilots and cabin crew, which has already seen strike action in some countries. 

ECA president Dirk Polloczek said: “Pilot associations demand the immediate withdrawal of the base closures in Eindhoven and Bremen and downsizing of the Niederrhein base. We call on Ryanair management and its board of directors to change its confrontational and counterproductive approach. It is hard to see how Ryanair can realistically expect to reach agreements with its unions with such threats hanging in the air.” 

“Taking actions which force pilots and cabin crew to relocate or lose their job and income is definitely not what we need to build trust and a solid basis for constructive negotiations,” said Martin Locher, president of German pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC). “If Ryanair is serious about reaching agreements by Christmas, such behavior is very unhelpful. The announced base closure date of Nov. 5 will be a milestone to test management’s real intentions and its willingness to actually do something for its employees, be it in Germany, be it elsewhere.”

Ryanair hit back at the ECA statement, with chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs saying: “The ECA and these pilot unions are silent when Lufthansa, Wizz Air, and Norwegian close bases or cut schedules. The closure of two Ryanair bases in Eindhoven and Bremen, and a reduction from five to three aircraft in Niederrhein is a small but necessary response to these adverse circumstances. Ryanair has already warned that if oil prices continue to rise, or if air fares continue to fall, we cannot rule out further base closures or capacity cuts in Germany or other EU countries.”

Referring to Polloczek, he added: “These regrettable closures are due to adverse market conditions, and we dismiss these false claims made by Lufthansa pilots under the banner of the ECA.”

Helen Massy-Beresford, helen.massy-beresford@aviationweek.co.uk