Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Johannesburg —Ryanair Holdings is starting a recruitment drive for pilots in SA as the budget airline looks for crew to helm its expanding fleet of jets.

The Irish carrier will host roadshows in Johannesburg and Cape Town later this month and is looking to hire captains for Boeing 737s, according to an advertisement on its website. Successful candidates will have to relocate to Europe and help staff a fleet that’s expected to increase to 580 planes from about 425 over the next six years.

SA’s Air Line Pilots’ Association is "well aware" of the hiring effort and will hold off on commenting until Ryanair discloses the terms and conditions of any job offers, William Rooken-Smith, president of the Johannesburg-based labour group, said by text message. "Despite recent labour issues, Ryanair is expanding to fill a gap left by failed airlines in Europe, so they would need to recruit in any event."

The search for pilots in far-flung countries such as SA comes as Dublin-based Ryanair battles with unions in Europe over pay and conditions. While the carrier has reached a deal in the UK, CEO Michael O’Leary warned this week that he’s prepared to cope with pilot walkouts rather than compromise the company’s low-cost model.

State-owned and unprofitable South African Airways (SAA) is cutting routes as new CEO Vuyani Jarana looks to reduce costs. While the majority of its fleet is made up of Airbus SE models, it also includes some Boeing 737s.

A spokesperson for SAA didn’t respond to phone calls looking for comment.