Some Ryanair pilots have claimed that management is unilaterally designating some normal rest days as annual leave days between now and the end of the year - though management categorically rejected claims that it did not have enough pilots.

In September, Ryanair announced that it was cancelling over 20,000 flights and over 700,000 journeys due to mismanagement of its pilots' annual leave - a situation allegedly exacerbated by a shortage of pilots.

On 27 September, Ryanair Chief Operations Officer Michael Hickey - who has since resigned - wrote to pilots announcing that the airline was slowing its growth rate by flying fewer aircraft over the winter and into the summer season.

He stated: "By slowing our growth this winter, we will free up more than 3,000 pilot duties per month, which will enable us to allocate all of the rostered leave in October, November and December."

"It will also create spare crew, spare aircraft and surplus available annual leave in those months, and again in Q1 2018 and we will now be granting more calendar month leave to pilots in the spring when we expect to be able to grant up to 450% of the entire 2018 annual leave requirement," he added.

However, pilot representatives have told RTÉ News that so far today there have been 58 individual reports from pilots at 24 bases of normal days off being re-designated as annual leave.

The move will only affect some pilots, as others have already had their full 2017 leave allocation.

RTÉ asked Ryanair whether normal rest days had been replaced by unilateral allocations of annual leave days, and whether the leave days would be reinstated and paid at a later stage.

RTÉ also asked whether this change was negotiated with pilots, whether the situation was triggered by a shortage of pilots, and how many pilots had resigned this year.

Ryanair said: "As you are well aware we do not comment on your rumour or speculation, particularly when your sources are so hopelessly misinformed. Please find attached full details of the 1,000 plus pilots we have recruited so far this year which negates your false claims of 'pilot shortages' which simply don't exist".

However, the company did not answer the other queries regarding annual leave, or the number of pilot defections to other airlines which may have offset recent recruitment.