Ryanair suffered a significant shareholder revolt on thursday over plans to pay chief executive michael oleary a 458,000 bonus despite the airline furloughing staff and taking state support in response to the pandemic.
A third of the carriers investors voted against the airlines non-binding remuneration report, which included mr olearys bonus payout for the year up to the end of march 2020, at the annual meeting in dublin.
Mr olearys base pay for the financial year ending in 2021 will becutby half to 250,000.
The rebellion was larger than what british airways owner international airlines group suffered this month, when 20 per cent of shareholders voted against its pay plan. this included a bonus of 883,000 for iag boss willie walsh.
It is the second year in a row ryanair has faced protests from shareholders. last year only 50 per cent voted in favour of the pay report after mr oleary agreed a five-year contract, including 10m in share options.
Investor adviser institutional shareholder services had recommended a vote against the pay report for the financial year to the end of march because it was difficult to justify.
The worlds biggest proxy adviser criticised a bonus that was about 92 per cent of the maximum mr oleary could receive at a time when the aviation industry is in turmoil and suffering its worst crisis.
Glass lewis, the worlds second-biggest proxy adviser, had urged shareholders to abstain. in the final count, about 65 per cent voted in favour, 33 per cent against with 2 per cent abstaining.
Ryanair declined to comment on the pay report.
The protests are the latest sign that executive bonuses are becoming a flashpoint for investors concerned about how companies are reacting to the pandemic.
Asset managers such as m&g have warned that some corporate bosses are not sharing the pain and are enjoying large payouts, despite businesses furloughing staff and cutting dividends.
Ryanair has so far claimed 600m in support through the bank of englands covid corporate financing facility, as well as making use of the uks job retention scheme.
In its latest financial report, stan mccarthy, chairman, warned that ryanair had never before faced such an existential crisis.
Before the pandemic struck, the airline had expected to carry more than 150m passengers in the 12 months to the end of march, but now predicts numbers closer to 50m.
In july, mr oleary warned that further disruption caused by a second wave of infections in the autumn could lead to further pay cuts and job losses. the airline fell to a 185m loss in the three months to the end of june and already plans to axe up to 3,000 jobs.
The annual meeting came as ryanair prepares to take its battle against government-led bailouts in the airline sector to the european courts.the first hearings are scheduled for next week, as the carrier challenges what it calls state aid doping, insisting government interventions to about a dozen airlines are illegal undereuropean law and would leave the competitive landscape distorted.
It is important that someone stands up for competition in this industry, and for consumers, said juliusz komorek, the airline's chief legal officer. we believe that allocating over 30bn to 10 plus airlines and forgetting about everyone else who provides connectivity in europe is not going to end up contributing to consumer welfare, he said.