Ryanair has announced it will cancel 40 to 50 flights a day for the next six weeks “to improve its system-wide punctuality”.
The airline says its on-time rate has fallen below 80 per cent, blaming the lateness of service on “a combination of ATC capacity delays and strikes, weather disruptions and the impact of increased holiday allocations of pilots and cabin crew”. The carrier’s current annual leave year runs from April to March, but it is currently transitioning to a January to December schedule from 2018.
While the airline says only two per cent of flights will be cancelled, the move has the potential to affect hundreds of thousands of passengers. Plans got off to a bad start, with 170 flights axed over the weekend, drawing complaints from stranded passengers on social media.
Ryanair said it would contact customers affected by the cancellations immediately with an offer of alternative flights or full refunds. An advisory on its website lists services that will be cancelled this week, along with instructions for affected travellers.
Robin Kiely, head of communications at Ryanair, said: “We have operated a record schedule during the peak summer months of July and August but must now allocate annual leave to pilots and cabin crew in September and October. By cancelling less than two per cent of our flying programme over the next six weeks (until our winter schedule starts in early November), we can improve the operational resilience of our schedules and restore punctuality to our annualised target of 90 per cent.
“We apologise sincerely to the small number of customers affected by these cancellations and will be doing our utmost to arrange alternative flights and/or full refunds for them.”
Criticism of the move is mounting, with consumer rights group Which? releases a statement backing up calls for adequate compensation. Rory Boland, travel editor at Which? said: “Ryanair cancelling many flights at short notice will cause huge inconvenience and great distress for its passengers. It must arrange alternative flights or provide a full refund for everyone affected.
“It’s also essential that Ryanair release a full list of flights that will be affected so that passengers have as much time as possible to make alternate arrangements.”
Ryanair has since told passengers on its Twitter page that "between today and tomorrow" it will publish a full list of the flights it plans to cancel up to October 31.