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Ryanair warns of flight disruptions

Budget carrier says today: “Unions representing competitor airlines will wish to test us”.

Ryanair says its passengers may face “localised disruptions” as the low-cost carrier recognises unions for the first time in the countries it operates in, it warns today in a trading update.

Following the scandal last year over pilot rotas, which cancelled thousands of flights, Ryanair agreed to recognise a union for its 600 pilots based in the UK.

The airline had resisted unions for years until now. But in 2018 it is expected to recognise unions also for cabin crew as well as pilots.

Ryanair says that profits for the final quarter of 2017 rose 12% to €106 million. Passenger numbers increased 6% to 30.4 million. Fares will fall by 3% this year, it predicts.

“As we finalise union discussions along similar lines to that agreed in the UK, we expect some localised disruptions and adverse PR, so investors should be prepared for same,” Ryanair said in the update.

Once that process is completed, Ryanair will have “similar engagement with cabin crew unions”.

Commitment test
But unions at other airlines could cause trouble, it added: “In certain jurisdictions, unions representing competitor airlines will wish to test our commitment to our low cost, high pay/high productivity model to disrupt our operations.

“We are fully prepared to face down any such disruption if it means defending our cost base or our high productivity model.”

Despite “considerable uncertainty” over fares, the cost of fuel and the lack of clarity on Brexit, Ryanair expects full-year profits for the coming year to be between €1.4 billion and €1.45 billion.

But that depends on three things: no union disruptions, sudden security events and the level of bookings over Easter. It also says that a 20% pay rise for its pilots will add €100 million in staff costs.

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