A guide to the Ryanair flight cancellations fiasco

Ryanair has hit turbulence on the ground as well as in the skies in recent months – thousands of flights are set to be cancelled before the end of March and there could be even more to come. The following is a comprehensive guide to the airline’s impending flight cancellations, telling you everything you need to know, including what options are open to you if you are impacted by a cancelled Ryanair flight.

How widespread are the Ryanair cancellations?

Having already cancelled 315,000 bookings in September 2017, Ryanair has outlined plans to scrap an additional 400,000 bookings between November 2017 and March 2018. It’s a move that will see 18,000 flights suspended across 25 routes and directly impact more than 2 million passengers.

The budget airline has decided to ground 25 of its 400 planes and cancel all flights between London and Scotland amid rumours of a pilot shortage.

With 2 million fewer passengers, Ryanair will carry approximately 129 million in the year to March 2018 and having taken into account future flight cancellations, the Dublin-based flight operator has revealed that it expects to carry 4 million fewer passengers than the 142 million it had originally forecasted for the year to March 2019.

The estimated cost of cancelling these flights is a staggering €25m, but Ryanair have insisted that the action will prevent future cancellations.

How do I find out if my Ryanair flight has been cancelled?

Ryanair have promised to notify affected passengers via email and SMS message. Passengers due to travel with Ryanair over the winter months have been advised to regularly check the email address they used to book their flights.

To minimise disruption, Ryanair have strategically selected flights for cancellation based on the departure airport. According to the airline’s infamous CEO, Martin O’Leary, flights from larger airports have been targeted to give passengers the best chance of finding alternative flights.

Departures from the following airports are the most likely to face cancellation:

  1. Barcelona
  2. Brussels (Charl)
  3. Dublin
  4. Lisbon
  5. London (Stansted)
  6. Madrid
  7. Milan (Bergamo)
  8. Porto
  9. Rome (Fiumi)

By the end of September, more than 315,000 Ryanair passengers had been impacted by cancelled flights – approximately 63,000 refunds were given and alternative flights were arranged for around 175,000 affected customers.

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Will Ryanair refund the cost of my ticket?

Yes – Ryanair have gone on record to say that they will offer passengers the choice of either a free reroute or a full ticket refund.

Representatives of the low-cost airline have promised customers that all refunds will be “processed within seven working days” but have been cautious regarding replacement flights. Passengers impacted by the cancellations have been advised to get in touch with Ryanair’s customer service team to arrange alternative air travel as the airline is unable to guarantee seat availability.

The Ryanair spokesperson went on to say, “We understand that flight cancellations may cause distress and we will accommodate your option wherever possible, while complying with EU Regulation 261/2004.

Will I be eligible to claim compensation from Ryanair?

It depends. A number of criteria must be met to qualify for compensation in accordance with EU Regulation 261/2004. For more information, please visit our dedictaed page if your looking to claim compensation from Ryanair.

For instance, passengers cannot claim if Ryanair have provided them with notification of the upcoming cancellation at least two weeks prior to the flights scheduled departure.

The airline will also avoid paying compensation as long as an appropriate re-route is provided. If Ryanair notify passengers of a re-route more than one week before the intended departure date, the replacement flight will need to depart two hours later than the original flight and arrive no more than four hours later than planned, otherwise the carrier will maintain liability.

On the other hand, if passengers aren’t notified of a cancellation until the week of departure, Ryanair must transport affected customers to their intended destination no more than two hours behind schedule in order to prevent passenger compensation claims being made against them.

How much compensation is paid for cancelled Ryanair flights?

The amount of compensation available depends on flight distance. Passengers that are due to travel less than 1,500km can claim approximately £220 and EU flights between 1,500 and 3,500km are worth somewhere in the region of £360. Theoretically, long-haul flights can earn travellers as much as £540, however, Ryanair do not currently operate flights that cover distances beyond 3,500km.

The rapid rise of the budget airline

The rapid rise of Ryanair and Easyjet

As well as cash compensation, passengers can seek reimbursement for the costs associated with the flight disruption caused by Ryanair, including food, transport and hotel accommodation. For this reason, it is important to keep receipts as proof of purchase.

Why have so many Ryanair flights been cancelled?

Ironically, airline chiefs have implied that the flight cancellations were being made in order to achieve a higher punctuality rates following a slump caused by strikes, disruptive weather, air traffic control (ATC) capacity issues and pilot and a cabin crew shortage caused by a rise in staff holiday allowances.

The infamous low-fares operator usually maintains a healthy punctuality rate of 90 per cent, but has recently seen a 10 per cent decline in on-time performance (OTP).

By altering the way it allocates holidays to staff, Ryanair has encountered staffing issues caused by pilots and cabin crew attempting to use up their allotted holidays before the end of December. Ryanair Chief Marketing Officer, Kenny Jacobs reiterated this by stating, “We have messed up in the planning of pilot holidays."

The airline has been unable to make up the hours with the remainder of its pilots either thanks to Flight Time Limitations that have put a block on pilots working longer shifts – all airline pilots are restricted to no more than 100 hours in a 28-day period, 900 per calendar year or 1,000 in any given 12-month period.

Ryanair CEO, Michael O'Leary has described the disruption as “a mess of our own making.

Many industry experts have been quick to point out that Ryanair has seen a significant number of their pilots join rival airlines in the last 12 months. However Ryanair’s notorious boss, Michael O’Leary has denied that the beleaguered carrier is suffering a pilot shortage. He instead chose to take the humble approach and apologise for the cancellations; “This is a mess of our own making. I apologise sincerely to all our customers for any worry or concern this has caused them…”

The airline remain insistent that the extensive flight cancellations are going to “provide stability to pilot rosters from November to March”.

"Utterly shambolic" - Liam Derbyshire, CEO, Flight Delay Claims 4 U

"Things have gone from bad to worse for Ryanair with the airline managing to screw up customer and employee holidays all at once.

The recent shock announcement of widespread cancellations will no doubt lead to monumental disruption for thousands of passengers over the coming winter months. It is utterly shambolic yet unsurprising at the same time given the catalogue of gaffes we’ve seen from the low-cost carrier in over the last couple of years.

Random seat allocation and reduced baggage allowances for those not willing to pay a fee are just two of the gripes Ryanair passengers have to contend with.

Despite all of the marketing spiel bleated to the tune of the airline’s ‘always getting better’ motto, the customer satisfaction rates must be at an all-time low.”

What financial impact will this have on Ryanair?

By announcing all of their cancellations at the same time, Ryanair has managed to avoid numerous compensation claims by providing the appropriate advanced notification to affected passengers in most cases.

However, according to Liam Derbyshire at Flight Delay Claims 4 U, the whole debacle could cost the Irish carrier upwards of £60 million. Ryanair are putting the figure closer to £25 million.

What impact will this have on Ryanair’s reputation?

Ryanair is renowned for taking risks and is never far away from controversy, but there is something about them that keeps customers coming back for more.

It’s probably the price – Ryanair has always aimed to draw customers in by focussing on low fares. Of course, there are lots of hidden charges and dubious extras to be added on, but the cost of flying is still pretty unbeatable if you are willingly to play by their rules.

The carrier has gone through more than its fair share of difficulties but up until now has remained Europe’s biggest airline. However, experts believe this latest incident could be a tipping point for many travellers.

Despite accepting responsibility, Ryanair has also attributed some of the cancellations to the numerous ATC strikes that have occurred in France this year.

Those analysing the company’s reputation have criticised the lack of leadership and staff planning as well as labelling the airline’s tactics unprofessional and risky.

The fear is that the damage to reputation could compound the financial costs significantly with the latest PR mishap put off even the most loyal Ryanair customers if the airline becomes too unpredictable and can longer be relied on for punctuality.

Historically, budget airlines that fail to deliver have been hit hard as a result – the recent demise of Monarch Airlines is proof of this. The long-term damage caused by Ryanair’s latest error could prove costly enough to undo all the good work the airline has put in over the last few years and ultimately see them slip from the top of the European aviation table.

Ryanair may be able to limit the impact of the disruption by swiftly compensating or re-routing those affected. So far the carrier’s reaction has been met with disappointment, with many people becoming frustrated with the questionable excuses being made by airline officials.

Despite the high-profile blunders, there’s no doubt that Ryanair is an integral part of the air travel industry, providing a low-cost option that makes holidays more affordable for millions of people across Europe. However, customers may start to grow tired of the errors being made and find alternatives – it will depend on whether Ryanair is able to reinvent itself once more – perhaps leveraging some Irish charm…

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