Ryanair has decided to recognise pilots’ unions across Europe, as long as they set up committees for issues specific to the budget airline.

The move comes after Ryanair condemned a group of Dublin-based pilots who voted to go out on strike for 24 hours five days before Christmas.

It is a “significant” change of direction for the budget airline, which has long refused to recognise unions.

The carrier, which had to cancel around 2,000 flights this winter due to rostering mistakes made earlier in the year, said it would “ignore” a strike by Italian pilots and “not deal with or recognise” their German counterparts.

But the airline now says it hopes the move to recognise the unions will help avoid industrial action over the festive season.

It says it has written to pilot unions in Ireland, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, inviting each to talks to recognise them as the representative bodies for pilots in Ryanair in their respective countries – and urged them to call of strike action.

But Ryanair insisted they establish committees of Ryanair pilots to deal with Ryanair issues because “Ryanair will not engage with pilots who fly for competitor airlines in Ireland or elsewhere”.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “Christmas flights are very important to our customers and we wish to remove any worry or concern that they may be disrupted by pilot industrial action next week.

“If the best way to achieve this is to talk to our pilots through a recognised union process, then we are prepared to do so, and we have written today to these unions inviting them to talks to recognise them and calling on them to cancel the threatened industrial action planned for Christmas week.

“Recognising unions will be a significant change for Ryanair, but we have delivered radical change before.

“Putting the needs of our customers first, and avoiding disruption to their Christmas flights, is the reason why we will now deal with our pilots through recognised national union structures and we hope and expect that these structures can and will be agreed with our pilots early in the New Year.”