by Hugh Morris, The Daily Telegraph, September 18, 2017
Ryanair is poised to release a full list of the thousands of flights to be cancelled over the next six weeks, after the budget airline was forced to slash services from its schedule after “messing up” its pilots’ holidays.
The Irish carrier broke the news over the weekend that it was set to cancel as many as 470,000 bookings on “40 to 50 flights daily”. After a delay releasing the full details of those services affected, it now says it will publish a full list on its website by Tuesday.
How do I know if my flight is cancelled?
Ryanair’s chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said passengers due to fly on cancelled services would receive an email. “We advise customers to check the email addresses used to make their booking,” he said.
The airline also posted a list of the cancelled flights on its website, but only up to September 20. It said customers whose flights is impacted will receive an email and a text.
Ryanair's ceo Michael O'Leary on Monday said that it is trying to cancel flights from the larger airports from which it operates so it can provide customers with alternative arrangements.
Ryanair said in a statement the airports most affected will be:
- Brussels Charl
- London Stansted
- Milan Bergamo
- Rome Fiumi
Will Ryanair release a full list of flights?
Yes. It said a full list of cancelled flights will be published "between September 18 and September 19".
What will I get if my flight is cancelled?
The airline says passengers whose flights have been cancelled can either change their flight for free or obtain a refund .
It says that any refund will be “processed within seven working days” and that alternate flights will be “subject to seat availability”. It also advises customers to contact its customer services operatives to discuss rerouting options.
“We understand that flight cancellations may cause distress and we will accommodate your option wherever possible, while complying with EU Regulation 261/2004,” Ryanair said.
Am I entitled to compensation?
You might be. The compensation governed by this EU legislation has a number of caveats. The compensation available in theory is €250 for flights up to 1,500km, €400 for longer EU flights and €600 for flights outside the EU longer than 3,500km. Ryanair does not fly long-haul so the latter would not apply.
The airline does not have to pay compensation if it notifies passengers two weeks prior to departure, or, in the case of one to two weeks prior to departure, if it can re-route passengers on to services that depart no more than two hours earlier than scheduled and arrive no more than four hours later than scheduled.
If there is less than a week between notificaiton and your departure, Ryanair is liable to pay compensation unless it can deliver customers to their destination, departing no more than one hour earlier than scheduled and arriving no more than two hours later than scheduled.
So, key to claiming compensation is when you are notified, and the departure and arrival time of your alternate flight.
You might be able to claim the costs of any accommodation or food and drink incurred because of a cancellation so be sure to keep any receipts.
Why is Ryanair having to cancel so many flights?
Ryanair initially said that it was cancelling flights "to improve punctuality". It said, on Saturday, that "a combintation of ATC (air traffic control) capacity delays and strikes, weather disruptions and the impact of increased holiday allocations to pilots and cabin crew" had damaged its punctuality score.
It said that the latter was caused by the airline moving from a April to March holiday year to a calendar year. It said that a record schedule and traffic levels during July and August had led to a "backlog of crew leave", which must be used up before December 31.
Ryanair said the "tighter crewing numbers" had "given rise to significant delays in recent weeks", pushing the airline's on-time performance from 90 per cent to under 80 per cent. It said that by reducing its scheduled flying programme, the airline "will create additional standby aircraft which will help restore on-time performance".
In a later explanation, Ryanair's Kenny Jacobs said: "We have messed up in the planning of pilot holidays." It seems the holidays are now being rushed through before the airline's winter schedule begins in November.
Another explanation for Ryanair's staffing issue is that as many as 140 of the Irish carrier's pilots have joined rival Norwegian in just 12 months. O'Leary denied the airline was short of pilots. He said: "This is a mess of our own making. I apologise sincerely to all our customers for any worry or concern this has caused them over the past weekend."
How much is it likely to cost Ryanair?
Given that 470,000 passengers could be affected and it is unlikely the airline would be able to find seats on alternative planes within a window of several hours of the cancelled flight - bearing in mind Ryanair regularly boasts a load factor of 97 per cent - the airline is looking at the same number of claims. As the majority of the airline’s flights are short-haul, the compensation due would be €250 (£220), for flights shorter than, say, London to Warsaw, or €400 (£352), for flights, longer than, say, London to Lisbon or Naples.
The numbers add up to an astronomical fee - more than £100,000,000 if you work on the basis of three quarter of the flights being less than 1,500km. Flight delay law firm Bott and Co anticipate the fiasco will cost Ryanair £60 million.
What about travel insurance?
Again, there is some doubt as some policies only cover costs for specific reasons behind the cancellations.
“The majority of standard travel insurance policies will not cover you for accommodation and associated costs if your airline cancels your flight, they will only cover specific limited reasons for cancellation,” said Fiona Macrae of Travel Insurance Explained.
“So, unless your travel insurance policy specifically states that cover is provided for airlines cancelling your flight, you will not be able to make a successful claim for this situation.
“We would urge anyone buying a travel insurance policy to look for one that provides cancellation cover for ‘any cause beyond your control and you are unable to claim back from any other source’.
What does this mean for Ryanair?
It prides itself on a religious commitment to low fares. There may be extras - bags, reserved seats, etc - but Ryanair aims to fill its planes as full as possible and so keep its headline fares as low as £10.
With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine customers turning away in their droves, but experts say it could be the most damaging incident to happen to the airline in years.
Though Ryanair has admitted fault in “messing up” its pilots rota, it has also pointed to air traffic control strikes in France as a contributing factor.
Reputation analysts from the Royal Bank of Canada say that their response is not good enough, accusing Ryanair of making “football manager excuses”.
“These seem like compounding issues to a lack of staff planning - that risks over-trading when there was little slack in its system for the unpredictable,” the RBC said in a report.
“With 97 per cent load factors we have yet to see a robust explanation of how affected customers will be accommodation.
“We see reputation damage beyond the direct cost. The poor PR could deter future bookings and may well put off more time sensitive higher yielding demand, like business trips, if the carrier is seen as unreliable and less punctual.
“History has not been kind to low-cost carriers that cannot deliver. Overall, it is the potential for long-term damage that concerns us. If Ryanair recovers the situation quickly and ensures its cancelled customers are compensated and rebooked - on other airlines if need be - then we think that despite short-term cost the issue will pass. If not, and the situation worsens, or elongates, or Ryanair fails to do the 'right thing' and it receives further bad press then we see a possibility it could put at risk all the All Getting Better efforts it has made. For now, we make no outlook revisions, but if the follow-on was to be mishandled we would then see downside risk to long-term forecasts and rating.”