Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary admits the airline has 'messed up' over cancelled flights fiasco

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Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary has admitted the airline has "messed up" its holiday allocations but dismissed suggestions the carrier was facing a shortage of pilots.

The airline said on Monday (18 September) that it faces up to €20m (£18m) in compensation claims after revealing it would cancel between 40 to 50 flights a day over the next six weeks in a bid to clear a backlog of pilot holidays.

"This is our mess-up," he said in a press conference on Monday.

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"When we make a mess in Ryanair, we come out with our hands up, we try to explain why we made the mess, and we will pay compensation to those passengers who are entitled to compensation, which will be those flights that are cancelled over the next two weeks."

The carrier is shifting its holiday year to run from January to December, rather than the current system, which sees it run from April to March. As a result, it had to allocate annual leave to pilots in September and October.

"In total, there will be 50 flights cancelled on Mondays, there will be 44 cancelled on Tuesdays, 42 cancelled on Wednesdays, 48 on Thursdays, 52 on Fridays, 48 on Saturdays, 52 on Sundays, which is an average of 48 flight cancellations a day," O'Leary added.

He also quashed reports that the airline had lost a number of pilots to Norwegian, one of its direct rivals in the budget airline sector.

"We can confirm that 140 pilots have joined Norwegian from Ryanair this year," said the latter, which is building a new hub at Dublin airport, Ryanair's home airport.

"Pilot recruitment is also under way for more pilots for our new Dublin base opening later this year."

Full list of cancelled flights to be released

Over the weekend, Ryanair added the drastic decision to cancel flights was also motivated by its need to improve punctuality, which has fallen from 90% to below 80% in the first two weeks of September. Up to 400,000 passengers across 2,000 flights could be affected over the six-week period and 82 scheduled services were cancelled on Sunday (17 September) alone.

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Ryanair marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said affected customers with bookings up to Wednesday had been informed, and it will update its website daily with the list of flights cancelled.

The airline said customers can assume their flight is going ahead as scheduled unless they receive an email to the contrary and it will publish a full list of all the flights affected.

"Between today and tomorrow all flight cancellations up and until 31 October will be communicated," the airline wrote on its Twitter account.

The move came after the Irish carrier's decision to only publish a list of flights affected until this Wednesday had come under intense criticism by passengers and consumer groups, who claimed they needed a longer notice.

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"It is essential Ryanair release full list of flights affected so passengers have time to make arrangements," consumer group Which? said a statement.

Passengers whose flight have been cancelled have been given two options by Ryanair. They can apply for a refund which will be processed within seven working days, and they can change or cancel their flights free of charge.

However, under EU rules, if passengers are informed of a cancelled flight more than two weeks prior to departure the airline is not liable to pay compensation. Also, an airline is not liable for compensation if it gives passengers a week's notice and finds another flight that can get them to their destination within less than four hours of the original scheduled time of arrival.

Flight cancellations or delays can have a large number of knock-on costs, but unfortunately the EU rules do not cover what's known as 'consequential losses'.

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