Dear fellow professional pilots of Ryanair,
While we live and work on different sides of “the pond,” our expectations are closely aligned. As highly trained professionals, we expect compensation, working conditions, and a lifestyle commensurate with the level of expertise, education, and experience that we bring to the market. The pilots of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) expect these things, and the pilots of Ryanair should expect nothing less. SWAPA stands with you as your pilots come out of the shadows and fight for your right to stand with an effective collective voice.
Southwest Airlines was founded by the legendary Herb Kelleher with the objective of bringing air travel to the masses. While it was founded as a “low-cost carrier,” Herb based his new business on a fundamental core philosophy: Take care of your employees because happy employees take good care of customers, and happy customers take care of the shareholders. And not just take care of pilots, but also flight attendants, mechanics, agents, baggage handlers, and all of the people who make an airline move. This operating philosophy was responsible for decades of harmonious labor-management relations at our airline, which led to good jobs and great returns for investors.
However, as Herb’s leadership became a distant memory, so too became the operating principles on which he based his company. As accountants began to replace leaders, short-term cost control became the focus despite long-term strategic consequences. A strong union can help re-center your own management and let the customers who pay your salary know that front-line employees care about them more than the profit-centric management does. The pilots of SWAPA came together almost two years ago in a manner unprecedented in our history. We came together because pilots are the front-line leaders in any airline, and we saw our company’s senior managers making decisions with short-term cost rewards, but long-term negative consequences for our brand and its future success. While our solidarity was a key element in our achievement of an incredibly rewarding contract in 2016, the most significant byproduct of SWAPA pilots standing up with one voice was a refocus within our company on trying to regain the trust and confidence of the pilot force, and the realization that pilots and the company should be in a symbiotic relationship instead of an antagonistic one. This is one of the reasons SWAPA has succeeded with our members, fellow employees, our customers, and Wall Street.
Your struggling current CEO made a trip to Texas many years ago to observe Southwest Airlines in order to bring best practices back to Europe. However, your company has taken cost control, especially on the backs of pilots and other front-line employees, to an extreme and even to the detriment of Ryanair’s future success and stability. The days of ruling by fear and divide and conquer need to stop now. It is time for Ryanair to value you as employees and the excellent work you perform in service of your airline.
As you struggle for the recognition of your professional status and contribution to your company’s success, know that the pilots of SWAPA support you one-hundred percent. We hope that you will find within your group in Europe the same solidarity and united voice that helped us improve our profession here in America. Standing up for yourselves will not be easy. Your employer fears few things more than a unified pilot force whose resolve is strong enough to precipitate real positive changes for your group. Strong resolve and unity is exactly what you will need to bring meaningful change to your employment conditions. SWAPA, APA, ECA, and other unions will work with your chosen leaders and help support them in their quest to better your lives.
I look forward to seeing many of you in Dublin the last week of October. We wish you the best as you undertake this important endeavor.
Captain Jon Weaks
President, Southwest Airlines Pilots Association