Ryanair has said that it has agreed to change its longstanding policy and recognise pilot unions in a slew of countries across Europe, including the UK, to avoid widespread disruption for travellers over the crucial Christmas period.

The low-cost airline on Friday said that it had written to the pilot unions in Ireland, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal inviting each of them to talks to recognise these unions as the representative body for pilots of Ryanair.

In turn, it said that it was calling on these pilot unions to call off the threatened industrial action planned for Wednesday, 20 December.

“Christmas flights are very important to our customers and we wish to remove any worry or concern that they may be disrupted by pilot industrial action next week,” said chief executive Michael O’Leary.

“If the best way to achieve this is to talk to our pilots through a recognised union process, then we are prepared to do so, and we have written today to these unions inviting them to talks to recognise them and calling on them to cancel the threatened industrial action planned for Christmas week,” he said.

Mr O’Leary said that recognising unions would be a “significant change for Ryanair” but that the airline had “delivered radical change before”.

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