Ryanair CEO warns of strikes, says some pilot demands 'laughable'

Ryanair announces quarterly profits increase

The company was forced to cancel 20,000 flights past year because of a rostering issue.

The results on Monday came one week after Ryanair signed an agreement to recognise the British Airline Pilots Association, reversing its historic hostility towards trade unions.

Following the announcement last month that Ryanair had agreed to recognise the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) to represent its United Kingdom pilots, which account for more than 25% of the airline's pilots, the budget airline has announced that it is expecting some short-term disruptions, as it works to finalise union discussions in other countries "along similar lines to that agreed in the UK".

"We are pleased to report this increase in profits during a very challenging third quarter", said CEO Michael O'Leary.

Ryanair has launched a €750m (£662m) share buyback and sought to reassure shareholders that it is equipped to remain Europe's biggest low-priced airline after caving in to a unionisation drive from pilots.

In a trading update the airline said profits for the three months to the end of December had risen 12% to €106m (£93.6m), while passenger numbers rose by 6% in the period to 30.4 million.

"As we finalise union discussions along similar lines to that agreed in the United Kingdom, we expect disruptions and adverse PR so investors should be prepared for same".

"Our outlook for the remainder of 2018 is cautious".

It said that once that process had been completed, it expected to have "similar engagement with cabin crew unions".

The airline, which has 87 bases in Europe, said it was "fully prepared to face down any such disruption" if it meant defending its cost base or high productivity model.

In another boost, the group forecast passenger traffic would climb 8% to 130-million for the full year which ends in March 2018.

Further ahead, the company said it practically has zero visibility on FY19 fares, and its budget is not yet finalised, and do not share the optimism of competitors and market commentators for summer 2018 fare rises. The lack of clarity on Brexit continues to overhang fares and pricing on routes to/from the UK. "We would, even at this early date, urge extreme caution on investor & analyst assumptions for fares in FY19", the company added.

Ryanair also remains "concerned" about the uncertainty surrounding Brexit negotiations.

"We, like other airlines, need clarity on this issue before we publish our summer 2019 schedules in mid-2018 and time is running out for the United Kingdom to develop and agree these solutions".

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