Top executive quits Ryanair amid ongoing problems at budget airline

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary

The airline confirmed Hickey's departure this evening with chief executive Michael O'Leary saying that he made "an enormous contribution" to Ryanair.

Last month, Ryanair was forced to cancel 20,000 flights up to March, mainly owing to a shortage of pilots.

The airline now employs more than four thousand pilots.

Amid an exodus of pilots to competitors, Ryanair has written to cockpit crews offering to boost their pay and conditions.

The letter also received a lukewarm response from pilots who contacted the BBC. "It's a, How nice we are, followed by a carrot and then a threat".

O' Leary's letter, seen by the Reuters news agency, promised "significant improvements to your rosters, your pay, your basing, your contracts and your career progression over the next 12 months".

The operating chief, who assumed the post in 2014, has been at the airline since 1988, joining as an engineer and rising to direct the department.

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Mr O'Leary stressed that Ryanair was a "very secure employer in a very insecure industry" and he emphasised that the airline's pilots "are the best in the business".

Asked by an investor at the meeting if he had made changes to the rostering department, O'Leary said that it was "not the time to be taking people out and shooting them".

He concluded the message to pilots by asking them to give the airline any evidence of higher pay by a rival at their base so Ryanair could "meet it and beat it".

More than 700,000 passengers' travel plans have been affected by what Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary admitted was a "cock up".

The company was already coming under heavy fire for cancelling up to 50 flights a day in the middle of September before an extra 18,000 flights were axed at the end of the month.

Thus, Ryanair was left without enough pilots to carry out regular flights in September and October.

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