Ryanair offers last-minute talks with union in bid to stop pilot strike

Ryanair has offered last-minute talks with an Irish pilots' union on Tuesday in a bid to stave off a threatened pre-Christmas strike.

The budget carrier is one of Europe's largest airlines and said it will recognise unions for the first time as it also faces challenges from staff in Germany, Portugal, Britain and Italy.

Ireland's Impact trade union is seeking more clarification before it calls off industrial action by around 79 pilots in pursuit of formal union recognition.

Ryanair will meet Impact on Tuesday, hours before a walk-out by Irish-based captains the following day at one of the busiest times of year.

Ryanair's chief operations officer Peter Bellew said: "Let's keep talking. Get people home quietly for Christmas. Union meetings planned next week and January."

The move was an attempt to avoid a potentially-crippling strike just days before Christmas.

It is the only time airline boss Michael O'Leary has extended such an invite to union leaders in the 32 years the company has been in business.

A one-day strike had been planned for Wednesday December 20 and would have mostly involved captains operating out of Irish bases but doubtless have a severe knock-on effect.

In a social media post Mr Bellew confirmed the meeting with Impact and the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (IALPA) was scheduled for Tuesday, when they are expected to discuss the union's recognition.

Ryanair has offered to meet the Portuguese union on Thursday and the British and Italian organisations in early January.

Mr Bellew added: "Ryanair has again called on IMPACT/ IALPA to cancel the threatened industrial action on Wednesday Dec 20 (as the Italian and German unions have already done) which is causing unnecessary concern and worry for thousands of Ryanair customers travelling home during Christmas week."

Impact has said there is an urgent need to end the uncertainty.

It believes the meeting is necessary to explore Ryanair's offer of recognition to allow them to make a determination on calling off the industrial action.

In October, chief executive Michael O'Leary wrote to his airline's pilots to offer them better pay and conditions after Ryanair was forced to cancel thousands of flights.

The carrier admitted it had "messed up" the planning of its pilots' holidays.