To the ire of its passengers, Ryanair has announced that it will cancel between 40 and 50 flights per day over the next six weeks.
The budget airline originally said the cancellations had been made in order to improve its punctuality. But in a later statement it attributed them to an error with its annual leave allocation, which meant pilots were due more time off than they had been given.
Ryanair adds that less than 2% of the 2,500 daily flights it makes will be affected. However, this 2% figure could equate to more than a quarter of a million passengers being hit by cancellations in the next six weeks.
Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, says: “While over 98% of our customers will not be affected by these cancellations over the next six weeks, we apologise unreservedly to those customers whose travel will be disrupted, and assure them that we have done our utmost to try to ensure that we can re-accommodate most of them on alternative flights on the same or next day.
"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 1 January to 31 December 2018.
"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. We have only taken this decision to cancel this small proportion of our 2,500 daily flights so that we can provide extra standby cover and protect the punctuality of the 98% of flights that will be unaffected by these cancellations.”
Am I affected?
When Ryanair first announced the cancellations it only released a list of affected flights for a few days in advance. However, the budget airline has since published a full list of cancelled flights between Monday 18 September and Tuesday 31 October - the move comes after several experts and media outlets urged the budget airline to publish a full list of affected flights.
Ryanair says it will contact affected customers directly via email, and you can also check on the Ryanair website to see if you’re affected.
Most affected flights are those going to and from larger airports as Ryanair says it can "offer these disrupted customers the maximum number of alternate flights and routes". These key airports include Barcelona, Brussels Charleroi, Dublin, Lisbon, London Stanstead, Madrid, Milan Bergamo, Porto, and Rome Fiumicino.
What can I do if Ryanair cancels my flight?
Ryanair states that “customers will be contacted directly about this small number of cancellations and offered alternative flights or full refunds”.
When you visit Ryanair’s cancellations web page (listed above), if your flight is affected you’ll be given the option to try and change your flight or apply for a refund.
Hannah Maundrell, editor in chief of price comparison site Money.co.uk, says: “It’s so disappointing for Ryanair passengers whose flights have been cancelled especially at such late notice. Ryanair has really messed up here, but you shouldn’t be left out of pocket.
"If your flight has been cancelled, ask for a refund. You should get your money back within seven days or given an alternative flight. This should also apply to connecting flights you miss as a result, as long as they were booked together.”
You can also potentially claim on your travel insurance for lost holiday bookings or extra expenses if your flights are cancelled by Ryanair. However, there will likely be an excess which you have to pay to make any claim so it is important to check your insurance policy to see what it covers. You also can’t claim for the same thing twice from the airline and your insurer.
Ms Maundrell adds: “If your other travel plans are impacted, look to your travel insurance for cover. This is when having a decent policy can really come in handy.”
If you have had flights cancelled that were paid for by credit card, and the airline or insurer refuse to pay out, you could try claiming to your card provider under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This applies to spends of between £100 and £30,000.
Spending below this amount or on debit card may be able to be reclaimed under ‘Chargeback’ but unlike Section 75, this is not a legal requirement.
Can I claim compensation?
Under EU rules, if your flight departed from an EU airport or is an EU airline landing at an EU airport, and your flight was cancelled within 14 days of departure, you may also be eligible to claim additional compensation of between €125 and €600.
According to law firm Bott & Co, the cancellations could mean more than 200,000 passengers will be due flight cancellation compensation under EU rules.
Coby Benson, flight delay legal manager at Bott & Co, comments: "Much to Ryanair’s credit it appears to have been open and candid about the ‘mess up’ that has led to thousands of passengers’ flights being cancelled over the next six weeks. As these circumstances were within Ryanair’s control it will have to bear the cost of this mistake and pay passengers compensation of up to €600, where their flights were cancelled with less than 14 days' notice."
How much you get depends on when you were told about the cancellation, the distance of your flight, and the delay to your journey based on the arrival time of the rescheduled flight you’re offered. Compensation is also only payable if the cancellation is the airline’s fault, which in Ryanair's case it is.
You can apply directly on the Ryanair website for compensation (one claim per booking).
This web form can also be used to reclaim expenses caused by the cancellation, such as needing to make extra hotel bookings or pay for additional meals. Ensure you retain any receipts from extra spending incurred as they will be used as evidence for your claim.