Join Ryanair! See the world! But we'll only pay you for nine months a year

Glamorous myth of the flight attendant lifestyle undermined by angry employee's claims of 'exploitation'

They tend to look pretty miserable, and now perhaps we will understand why. A former member of Ryanair's cabin crew has blown the whistle on the conditions of work at Europe's largest budget airline.

Sophie Growcoot contacted her local MP to reveal that her employment contract with Crewlink, a contractor for Ryanair:

* Forced her to take three months compulsory unpaid leave a year – in the quiet winter months – during which she would be forbidden to take another job but receive no money.

* Made her pay £360 for a Ryanair uniform. She had to pay another £1,800 towards a mandatory safety course.

* Only paid her for the hours that she was actually "in the air". She was not paid for pre-flight briefings, turnaround time between flights, sales meetings and time on the ground due to delays and flight cancellations. The hourly flying rate was just £13.07 an hour with no contractual review for three years.

* Paid her for only four days work a week. On the fifth she was expected to be on call and to turn up for work with an hour's notice. Standby days were not paid unless she was called in to work.

On one occasion, the 20-year-old from Liverpool said she was on standby when she was called at 4am and asked to come in to work for a flight from Liverpool to Dublin. She paid £10 to get a taxi to the airport because there was no public transport. But when she arrived, the flight was cancelled because so few passengers were booked on it. Ms Growcoot claimed she was sent home without payment or even an apology.

Raising the issue in the House of Commons, Luciana Berger accused the company of "ruthlessly" exploiting staff and helping the company achieve record profits of nearly half a billion pounds. She also accused the Ryanair chief executive, Michael O'Leary, of profiting on the backs of poorly treated staff.

"This is exploitation by Ryanair – pure and simple," she said. "It's outrageous that an airline that reported record profits last year doesn't pay its staff for all the time they are at work. How can Michael O'Leary think it is fair or acceptable for his company to be profiting on the backs of exploited cabin crew like Sophie?"

Ms Growcoot told The Independent she felt she had been "lured" into signing her employment contract with Crewlink, which supplies Ryanair's cabin crews, without being told the full details.

"I was really excited about joining Ryanair's cabin crew at first, but it was a total nightmare," she said. "I couldn't believe it when I learnt I wouldn't be paid for all the time I was working.

"We'd be paid only when the wheels were moving, so I didn't get a penny for turnaround between flights or the hours when flights were delayed or cancelled.

"The recruiters knew exactly what they were doing. The charges kept getting bigger and bigger, but I couldn't say no as there aren't any other jobs out there. I felt completely trapped." A copy of Ms Growcoot's contract, seen by The Independent, appears to back her claims. In addition, it states that should an employee leave within the first 15 months of employment, they would be liable for a €200 administration fee.

A Ryanair spokesman said: “We are surprised by Ms Berger’s statement in the House of Commons, since this person was not employed by Ryanair, but by a contractor company, Crewlink Ltd, and appears to have left their employment without notice after just two months. We are also surprised that Ms Berger made no effort to verify these false claims with Ryanair before using her House of Commons privilege to make false accusations.”

Hot air: Ryanair shot down

Ash cloud compensation

The Icelandic volcanic ash cloud caused chaos in 2010 when aircraft across Europe were grounded. But one disgruntled passenger tried to make a compensation claim against Ryanair after being stranded for nine days. The company broke EU law by refusing to pay out £942 to cover meals and accommodation.

False location airports

The airline opened the Paris-Vatry-Disney airport as a gateway for Disneyland – 90 miles from Paris and 70 miles from the theme park. The airline also valiantly pushed to keep the name of "Dusseldorf" airport, even though it is 40 miles from the city.

Baggage checker reward

In 2011 it was revealed that Ryanair workers were given 50p for everyone they spotted trying to take oversized hand luggage on board a plane.

Gerard Brand

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
New Articles
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam