Ryanair has hit back at Balpa after the union approached the budget airline’s pilots to test the water over potential strike action.

Balpa (British Airline Pilots Association), which represents more than 10,000 pilots in the UK, is assessing the level of support among the Irish carrier’s pilots to establish their legal status as contract workers or direct employees of Ryanair in a consultation that lasts until November 6.

The union says Ryanair pilots are “in revolt” and is asking them if they’d back industrial action.

But Ryanair has hit back at the union and urged pilots concerned about working conditions to deal with them directly.

The Irish airline said Balpa’s claims have “no validity” and published figures which it says show it pays more than rival carriers.

A spokesman for Ryanair said: “These claims from the BA pilots union (which has no involvement or recognition in Ryanair) and which currently presides over hundreds of pilot job losses in Monarch, have no validity.

“If Ryanair pilots wish to discuss or improve their pay or conditions, they can do so at any time using the established collective bargaining process, which has already delivered them industry leading pay 5 on/4off rosters and unmatched job security.

Ryanair claims that when basic pay, ‘productivity’, ‘sector pay’, expenses and pensions are taken into account, it pays its captains 22% more than Jet2.com and 20% more than Norwegian.

The airline also dubbed the union’s claims that it has “complex employment structures” as “false”, adding: “A majority of Ryanair pilots in 2017 are direct employees, a minority are contractors, just like the contractor pilots which predominate among Norwegian, Wizz, Easyjet and other low cost airlines in Europe, and the many contractors employed by hospitals, hotels, airports and media.”

The row follow’s Ryanair’s pilot rota crisis which forced it to cancel thousands of flights over the winter and prompted the airline’s chief executive Michael O’Leary to launch an extraordinary public attack on its pilots.

He later apologised and Ryanair was reported to be offering improve terms and conditions to the many pilots who have the airline to join rivals such as Norwegian.