Southwest Airlines’ pilot group backs Ryanair union push

Pilots at Ryanair Holdings Plc got a boost in their bid to unionize from counterparts at Southwest Airlines Co., the U.S. carrier that provided a blueprint for Europe’s biggest discount operator. As the crisis surrounding the cancellation of 20,000 flights continues to swirl, the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association are ready to help their Ryanair colleagues, offering to host meetings as well as provide assets and resources, Jon Weaks, the union’s president, said in an interview.

“I’m preparing a letter to send offering support,” said Weaks, whose union represents 8,700 pilots and is based in Dallas. “We’re on standby to help them in any way.” The backing from flight crew at the biggest U.S. discounter follows an offer of legal, organizational and financial assistance from American Airlines Group Inc.’s Allied Pilots Association last week. The involvement of Southwest is symbolically significant as Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary used the company’s business model as a template after taking the top job in 1994.
Weaks said he is willing to travel to Ireland to meet with Ryanair’s pilots, although no financial assistance has yet been offered and his union’s involvement remains preliminary. U.S. labor groups are aiding Ryanair staff as they seek to stem the spread of outsourced recruitment and contracts, though Weaks added that organizing pilots has been tough given management’s anti-union stance.

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