A Ryanair flight attendant has accused the airline of a number of startling work practises, including only paying for "flying time", charging staff full price for water and sandwiches, and encouraging crew members to compete against each other for in-flight sales.
Writing for the Irish Times under condition of anonymity, the author wrote how the carrier's passengers were right to be angry about the large swath of recent cancellations, but said they should direct their ire at the bosses, not the staff.
The member of the cabin crew said that some colleagues had been called in to work on a flight, waiting "three or four hours" before the service was cancelled "so they went home, and they won't get any payment for that at all".
The author also alleged that staff are only paid for time the plane is in the air – so the crew prep the plane for boarding without remuneration.
"As a crew member I have no base salary and I am only paid for flying time," the flight attendant wrote. "Today, for instance, I got up at 3am and was in the airport around 5am. That was one hour before my first flight left. We had our briefings and went to the plane for the safety checks. Then there was the boarding. That is the hardest part, because you have to sort out all the bags and seat almost 200 people, and they are all tired, because it is very early. Then plane takes off, and it was only at that point I start getting paid.
"Today I clocked in at 5am and finished at 3pm, and in that time we had flights lasting a total of five hours. Those five hours are all I will get paid for even though I was at work for a total of 10 hours."
The crew member said that any staff working at the airline's smaller bases where flights have been cut for the winter schedule "have been told that they will have to transfer to other bases in Europe - and cover all costs themselves - or they will be forced to take unpaid leave for months".
The author also wrote about the pressure to hit in-flight sales targets.
"Technically we are not allowed to use the public-address systems on the early-morning or late-night flights, but we are given no choice to use them, because we have to sell products to passengers, and if we don't sell enough we will be disciplined; we will be called to Dublin and forced to explain ourselves.
"Today on my early-morning flight the average-spend-per-passenger target was just over €1. If there are 180 people on the plane that means that the four crew have to generate sales of €180. It is almost impossible to reach that target. And they tell us that if want to get back to a base in our home country, or if we want to get promoted, or if we want to swap a day with another colleague so we can go to the wedding of our brother, then we have to reach our targets..
"But they don't give us realistic targets, because they know that if they give us realistic targets, and we reach them, then we might relax – and they don't want us to relax. That is why on a 75-minute flight we might have three trolley services plus the gift cart plus the scratch cards."
The flight attendant said that crew members bring their own food and water on-board because they are charged full price for the airline's own supplies.
The author said: "Sometimes a flight is delayed, and we might be stranded in another base or a country far away, so we will have to pay for sandwiches on board at a cost of €5. And we have to buy the bottled water at a cost of €3."
"Recently we were told that we are no longer allowed to share sales. The way it works normally is that if a crew member has to go to the back of the plane to get something for a passenger the other crew member will process the sale. And we have been sharing the sales to make sure that the people who have to spend longer tending to passengers or getting stuff for them don't lose out.
"But now we are told we are not allowed to do that any more, so that makes the staff fight each other for sales, and it makes them not want to leave the trolley, because they might miss out on a sale. When we raised this with management we were told that Ryanair doesn't do teamwork: it wants us to compete with each other.
The author said if staff "call in sick more than three times" they are called to Dublin to explain themselves "and if [they] can't explain then [they] might be fired". "That is the fear," the author said. "The atmosphere is just terrible, and there are a lot of people leaving because they know they will earn more money working in McDonald's."
The anonymous flight attendant also alleged that the staff "are not allowed to join a union" but that they are "trying to organise".
"We have almost 3000 cabin crew coming together on social media, and we are working on a manifesto, a list of demands. We are not allowed to have a union, and we are not allowed to have a voice, but we are still going to organise, and if they don't listen to us then we will do something. There will come a day when more than 3000 of us will call in sick. That would be a last resort. We wouldn't want to do that, but we have to do something."
Asked for a response, Ryanair said: "Ryanair cabin crew earn up to €40,000 p.a. and enjoy great terms and conditions including job security, a recently negotiated five year pay deal with guaranteed pay increases, a five-on, three-off roster (a bank holiday weekend every week), a legal max of 900 flight hours p.a. (just 18 hours per week), great sales commissions which further boosts pay, free training, sick pay and an annual uniform payment of up to €425. This is why we currently have a waiting list of over 3000 young people who all hope to join Ryanair's cabin crew team, at a time when other airlines and their unions are negotiating job cuts, pension cuts and pay cuts. We don't comment on rumour or speculation especially when it originates from competitor airline unions."
The quotes of the Ryanair flight attendant were reproduced by The Telegraph, London with permission of the Irish Times.
The Telegraph, London
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