Ryanair admits mess-up over canceled flights on lack of pilots

Reuters
The Irish budget airline is canceling up to 50 flights a day over the next six weeks because it “messed up” its pilots’ holiday schedules
Reuters

Ryanair admitted yesterday it had messed up after the Irish budget airline disrupted the plans of hundreds of thousands of travellers by canceling flights to cope with pilot shortages and improve its punctuality record.

Ryanair blamed a number of factors for the sudden cancelations including a backlog of staff leave, which must be taken by the end of the year. Europe’s largest airline by passenger numbers also said air traffic control strikes and weather disruption were affecting its performance.

Rival Norwegian Air said yesterday that it had recruited more than 140 pilots from Ryanair this year, adding to the squeeze on staffing.

“It is clearly a mess but in the context of an operation where we operate more than 2,500 flights every day, it is reasonably small but that doesn’t take away the inconvenience we’ve caused to people,” Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary told Sky News.

He said the problems were not the result of pilots quitting but was “because we’re giving pilots lots of holidays over the next four months.” Every passenger who is entitled to compensation will receive it in full, he added.

Seeking to halt a decline in performance figures, Ryanair has taken the unusual step of announcing plans to cancel between 40 and 50 flights per day until the end of October.

Ryanair said the cancelations were designed “to improve its system-wide punctuality which has fallen below 80 percent in the first two weeks of September.”

While it currently calculates crew leave from April to March, the Irish Aviation Authority is forcing it to calculate it from January to December from the start of 2018, it added.

Ryanair sent e-mails to the first affected passengers last Friday, giving them the choice of a refund or an alternative flight. It has issued cancellation notices up until tomorrow.

The move brought bad publicity for an airline which has worked hard over the past few years to improve a reputation for treating passengers badly.

News bulletins in Ireland ran interviews with disgruntled customers while newspapers asked readers to share their stories, including a wedding party who told the Irish Times they had been left stranded in France.

Analysts at Dublin-based Goodbody Stockbrokers estimated that the cancelations would cost the airline around 34.5 million euros (US$41.2 million) — comprising 23.5 million euros in compensation, 6.3 million euros in lost fees, and 4.7 million euros in subsistence such as meals, drinks and accommodation.

Goodbody said that would shave 2.3 percent off its full year forecast of 1.479 billion euros in profit after tax.

In July, Ryanair reiterated its 1.4 to 1.45 billion euro forecast for the financial year ending March 31, 2018.

The Irish Independent said yesterday that Ryanair has been offering pilots a 10,000 euro “signing-on bonus” in response to recruitment problems.



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