Ryanair has been in crisis mode since it announced last week that it is grounding 2,100 aircraft, with the loss of 50 flights a day, until October 31, to clear a pilot shortage caused by a backlog of crew leave.
The cancellations are expected to cost the airline €25million (£22.1million) and affect about 315,000 passengers.
Norwegian claims to have snapped up 140 Ryanair pilots this year alone, a figure the Irish carrier disputes, and could poach people from the airline and others when it opens its Dublin base.
A Norwegian spokesperson said: “We can confirm that 140 pilots have joined us from Ryanair this year. Pilot recruitment is also underway for more pilots for our new Dublin base opening later this year. We are looking forward to welcoming many new pilots in the future on a journey that will offer exciting, global possibilities.”
Under pressure Ryanair has seen its share price dive 3.6 per cent over the past week and they closed on Friday at €16.44 (£14.53), with the crisis wiping €752million (£664million) off the market value of the airline.
However, a number of institutional investors are believed to have been using the fall in Ryanair’s share price to boost their holdings.
Investec transport analyst Alex Paterson said that at this stage it is difficult to assess what impact the cancellations will have on the airline’s performance.
However he added: “If this [the pilot shortage and cancellations] impacts upon demand, there will be a revenue hit. There will also be cost hits as it’s recruiting 120 new pilots from Brazil and emerging markets. There could also be a cost hit if pilots unionise. It should be noted that when British Airways moved into Terminal 5 at Heathrow it was a disaster; bags went missing, etc and people vowed to never fly with them again. They got over it very quickly.”
Ayondo Markets chief trader Jordan Hiscott said: “Negative sentiment around Ryanair has hit the stock especially hard this week. Whether or not the situation is being handled well is up for debate. Chief executive Michael O’Leary is certainly well respected in the industry and has led Ryanair from strength to strength, but is he the right man for soothing investors’ trepidation?”
On Thursday Norwegian will launch its new Singapore service, its 10th long-haul destination from London Gatwick, with fares starting from £179.90 each way.
The four-times-a-week route to Singapore will become the world’s longest flight by a low-cost airline at…