RYANAIR has recognised the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) in what has been described as a "historic" agreement for commercial airline pilots in Europe.
The decision by the Irish budget airline – still the largest in Europe – follows an announcement before Christmas that it was changing its stance towards trade unions and was willing to enter into discussions over recognising them.
It marks the first time in Ryanair's 32-year history that the carrier has recognised a union, and comes after it was forced to cancel 20,000 flights last Autumn due to a shortage of standby pilots.
Under today's agreement, BALPA will be recognised as the sole trade union representing all of Ryanair’s 600 employed pilots based in the UK.
"Given Ryanair's previous hostility towards unions, today's agreement is an historic one," Brian Strutton, General Secretary of BALPA, said in a statement.
"While we were initially sceptical about Ryanair's sincerity in offering recognition to us and other unions, our conversations and meetings with them have shown that they are genuine in wanting a constructive trade union relationship."
“BALPA will be opening our election for five Ryanair Company Council representatives to be chosen from amongst the BALPA members employed by Ryanair.
"These reps will lead future negotiations on issues such as pay, hours, rostering and holidays on behalf of all our Ryanair members.
“We will also be opening an election for an advisory group for Ryanair contractor pilots who are not employed directly by the company".
He added: “I am hopeful that this is the beginning of a strong and mutually beneficial relationship between BALPA and Ryanair and I urge Ryanair to agree deals with pilot unions in other countries and with cabin crew unions.”