Ryanair acts on passenger ire over cancelled flights
September 18 2017 06:30 PM
Ryanair
Ryanair

AFP/London

Ryanair said Monday it would now quickly publish a full list of thousands of flights to be cancelled over coming weeks after its earlier piecemeal approach came under fire from passengers and the EU.

The Irish no-frills airline said Friday it would scrap up to about 2,000 flights over six weeks as it struggles with pilot availability and is hoping to restore a high level of punctuality.

But Ryanair published on its website only those flights cancelled through to the end of Wednesday -- leaving passengers on later dates in the dark.

‘It is clearly a mess,’ Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary acknowledged on Sky News after angry passenger comments across social networks.

‘What if your (sic) flying out on a flight not cancelled before Wednesday, how the hell do you know if you can get back. Publish full list now!’ tweeted Carole Schofield.

But in individual replies later Monday, Ryanair tweeted that the ‘full list until end of October will be published between today and tomorrow’.

The European Union meanwhile warned Ryanair it must ‘fully comply’ with rules on compensating passengers.

‘All passengers whose flights are cancelled have a comprehensive set of rights under EU law,’ European Union Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said in a statement.

- 'Right to reimbursement' -

‘These include the right to reimbursement, re-routing or return, as well as the right to care and in some circumstances the right to compensation.’

Ryanair had said it would scrap 40 to 50 flights daily -- ‘less than two percent’ of its flying programme -- to address problems caused by air traffic control (ATC) delays, strikes and weather disruption.

But the Dublin-based carrier admitted that it has been hit also by pilots and cabin crew being forced to take outstanding holiday entitlement by the end of the year as part of new company rules.

While Ryanair admitted that it ‘messed up’ the planning of staff holidays, reports said the airline had been impacted by recruitment issues after losing a number of pilots to rival carrier Norwegian Air.

‘We can confirm that 140 pilots have joined Norwegian from Ryanair this year,’ said a statement Monday from the Scandinavian airline.

‘Pilot recruitment is also underway for more pilots for our new Dublin base opening later this year,’ Norwegian added.

Shares in Ryanair were down 1.9 percent at 16.75 euros in late afternoon Dublin trade.

‘We see a modest adverse financial impact from refunded tickets and compensation cost,’ said brokers Liberum.

‘This is clearly a disappointing and embarrassing operational mistake for Ryanair. However, so long as the pilot shortage is rectified in due course, there should be no (long term group) impact,’ it added in a client note.

In Britain, a key market for Ryanair, aviation minister Martin Callanan said he was ‘very concerned’ by the airline's actions.

- Lack of pilots -

In a statement Friday, Ryanair's head of communications, Robin Kiely, said the airline was being impacted by having to allocate annual leave to pilots and cabin crew over the next six weeks.

‘This increased leave at a time of ATC capacity delays and strikes (in France), has severely reduced our on-time performance... to under 80 percent,’ he said.

Kiely added that by cancelling flights until Ryanair's winter schedule starts in early November, the carrier can restore punctuality to a target of 90 percent.

Ryanair has worked hard over the past few years to improve its public image after fierce criticism over its no-frills approach.

Since 2013, the airline has become far more engaging on social media and produced a simplified website. However, it continues to face passenger and media ire over its tough approach to customers, by for example imposing on-the-spot fines for carrying too much luggage weight.



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