Why Would Anyone Want to Work As Cabin Crew For Ryanair? Less Pro's and More Con's: All the Details

Why Would Anyone Want to Work As Cabin Crew For Ryanair? Less Pro’s and More Con’s: All the Details

Ryanair has been getting more than its fair share of bad publicity recently.  It all started on 15th September when the Irish-based low-cost airline announced it would cancel thousands of flights in what it called an effort “to improve its system-wide punctuality.”

In the following days, it emerged the main cause of the public relations disaster was a rostering issue with its pilots.  But as the lid is lifted on what it’s really like to work for Ryanair, it’s not just the pilots who are pushing the airline for better conditions.

And although Ryanair doesn’t allow its staff to be represented by trade unions, more and more informal groups of employees are starting to speak up.  Of course, it’s not just the pilots who feel they are being treated unfairly by Ryanair.  Cabin crew are also starting to make their grievances known – and it’s easy to see why.

Now admittedly, there are some very good reasons to become cabin crew with Ryanair.  As the largest airline by passenger numbers in Europe, Ryanair has plenty of job opportunities.  What’s even better is that Ryanair operates cabin crew bases across Europe, meaning that many cabin crew can remain near their friends and family.

Nor does Ryanair pay too badly either.  The company says new recruits should expect to earn from €900 to €1,400 per month.  But longer serving permanent employees can easily earn up to €31,500 per year.

But make no mistake – life at Ryanair can be hard.  Here are five reasons why cabin crew are starting to push for better conditions:

1. Most cabin crew aren’t actually employees of Ryanair

The vast majority of cabin crew don’t actually have a contract of employment with Ryanair.  Instead, they are considered contractors and employed by one of two Irish employment agencies, Crewlink and Dalmac.  As contractors, Ryanair cabin crew have less employment rights under Irish law than permanent employees.

This isn’t entirely unheard of in the aviation industry although it is still rare for cabin crew to be employed in this way.  Ryanair’s newfound adversary, Norwegian Air Shuttle also employs its cabin crew through an employment agency that it partly owns.

2. Cabin crew have no access to trade unions

No matter where they are based in Europe, all Ryanair cabin crew are employed under an Irish employment contract.  It’s perfectly legal but it does leave cabin crew with fewer rights than what they might enjoy under a local employment contract.

One such right is the ability to join a trade union.  Irish companies don’t have to recognise trade unions if they don’t want to – and guess what, Ryanair doesn’t.  With cabin crew spread out across Europe, it’s very difficult for staff to collectively bargain for better rights and conditions from the airline.

That being said, there might be a ray of light for cabin crew who don’t like their Irish employment contracts.  The European Court of Justice recently ruled that local courts should oversee Ryanair contract disputes – that might mean some significant changes to employment contracts but only in the country where the matter has been brought to court.

The Ryanair training facility in Germany. Photo Credit: Crewlink
The Ryanair training facility in Hahn, Germany.  Recruits have to pay €3,599 to undertake the course. Photo Credit: Crewlink

3. It actually costs cabin crew money to work for Ryanair

It can cost a huge €3,599 to go through the mandatory Ryanair training course.  There’s a €500 registration fee, €2,399 for the actual course and then a further €700 for accommodation costs.  Food and drink isn’t included.

Candidates either have to pay upfront or as many do, pay in instalments through a salary sacrifice scheme.  Of course, this works out very well for Ryanair – Not only do they save money in training costs but they then tie new recruits into working for their airline for a set period of time.  Whether they like the job or not.

And it’s not just the training which will cost new cabin crew.  The uniform also has to be paid for out of their own wallets.

Even on board, Ryanair cabin crew have to keep paying out.  Despite regularly working 10 to 12-hour days (never leaving the aircraft), cabin crew aren’t provided any refreshments by the airline.

4. But that’s even if you’re paid by Ryanair at all

The Ryanair contract stipulates that cabin crew can be given 3-months of unpaid leave per year.  Which sounds great until you realise that Ryanair regularly does this to reduce their cabin crew numbers over the winter months when fewer people are flying.

Okay, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Some cabin crew save up their salaries and take the opportunity to go on an extended holiday.  Others take up temporary jobs to see them through the winter.  In fact, it’s not even that uncommon – many charter airline’s employ cabin crew seasonally and get very few complaints.

But you’ve got to feel a little sorry for a group of customer service supervisors (senior cabin crew) at Ryanair’s East Midlands Airport base.  They recently received a letter from their managers asking them to relocate to a German airport for six weeks or be allocated unpaid leave.  Oh, and if they took up the offer, all transport and accommodation costs would be at their own expense.

5. It’s really hard work (no, we mean really hard work)

Ryanair says candidates should be “hard-working” and boy they aren’t kidding.  Now, who’s afraid of a little hard work you might say but conditions at Ryanair really are worse than comparable airlines.

First of all, you’ve got to realise that while there are strict rules governing working hours for cabin crew, you’d be surprised at how many hours crew can work on short-haul services.  And Ryanair manages to stretch those rules to the very limit.  That means very long days at unsocial hours and few breaks.

But it’s not just the working hours that can be hard.  There’s also the sales targets.  In a recently leaked memo sent to Ryanair cabin crew, a manager insisted every member of crew had to sell at least one bottle of perfume and eight scratchcards per day.  Then there were the fresh food sales on top of that.

None of these reasons should be a deal breaker but Ryanair cabin crew are not starting to question whether their employer has been treating as fairly as they should.

Mateusz Maszczynski

Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.

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