Irish LCC Ryanair estimates that crew-related cancellations over the next six weeks will cost around €25 million ($29.9 million), with CEO Michael O’Leary describing the situation as “a mess of our own making.”
On Sept. 15, Ryanair announced it was canceling 2% of its flight schedule over the next six weeks to restore punctuality levels, which dipped around 10 points to below 80% over the past couple of weeks because of air traffic control problems, weather disruption and crew-leave changes.
The strongest driver appears to be the crewing changes. Ryanair has been told by Irish aviation regulator IAA to change its leave year, which currently runs from April to March, to the calendar year from Jan.1, 2018. All leave must be allocated before then.
“Ryanair is not short of pilots—we were able to fully crew our peak summer schedule in June, July and August—but we have messed up the allocation of annual leave to pilots in September and October because we are trying to allocate a full year’s leave into a nine-month period from April to December. This issue will not recur in 2018 as Ryanair goes back onto a 12-month calendar leave year from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018,” Ryanair said in a statement issued Sept. 18.
The cancellations have stirred up anger among affected passengers and impacted the LCC’s share price, undermining the customer image gains Ryanair has made through its Always Getting Better program.
Reacting to the backlash, O’Leary said: “This is a mess of our own making. I apologize sincerely to all our customers for any worry or concern this has caused them over the past weekend.”
Ryanair published a list of cancellations for Sept. 21 to Oct. 31, focused on high-frequency routes from nine bases: Barcelona, Brussels Charleroi, Dublin, Lisbon, London Stansted, Madrid, Milan Bergamo, Porto and Rome Fiumicino. Typically, just one daily frequency is affected.
“These cancellations have been allocated where possible, to Ryanair’s bigger base airports, and routes with multiple daily frequencies so that Ryanair can offer these disrupted customers the maximum number of alternate flights and routes in order to minimize inconvenience to them,” Ryanair said.
Passengers will be offered alternative flights on the same or next day, or a full refund and their EU261 passenger rights compensation, which is a large driver behind the cost estimate.
Ryanair has been keen to stress that less than 2% of its passengers will be affected and that the current list impacts fewer than 50 flights per day.
Victoria Moores [email protected]