Following multiple threats of pilot walk-outs over Christmas, Ryanair has agreed to recognise unions, saying it has invited them to talks “to avoid disruption to its customers”.

The low-cost carrier says it has written to unions in Ireland, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal to recognise them as representative bodies for its pilots. However, it comments it will only work with these unions if they agree to establish committees for Ryanair pilots, warning that it “will not engage with pilots who fly for competitor airlines in Ireland or elsewhere”.

This is a huge change from Ryanair’s historic policy of not working with labour unions. Pilots began seeking representation following the airline’s rostering debacle, which saw thousands of customers affected by flight cancellations through early 2018.

The unions warned Ryanair earlier this week that it faced strike action on December 20 in Ireland, but the carrier has decided to change its policy “so that our customers can look forward to travelling home for Christmas without the threat or worry of pilot strikes hanging over them.”

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said: “Christmas flights are very important to our customers and we wish to remove and worry or concern that they may be disrupted by pilot industrial action next week.

“If the best way to achieve this is to talk to our pilots through a recognised union process, then we are prepared to do so… Recognising unions will be a significant change for Ryanair, but we have delivered radical change before…”

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