Ryanair cancellations throw plans of thousands into disarray

Has the ‘low fare airline’ moved closer to being the ‘don’t care airline’?

Just as Ryanair  was cancelling flights over the weekend it was sending out emails to customers boasting about the low fares coming down the tracks

Just as Ryanair was cancelling flights over the weekend it was sending out emails to customers boasting about the low fares coming down the tracks

 

Ryanair’s passenger-focused mask slipped badly last week when the “always getting better” claim it has been making since its relatively recent conversion to customer service began to ring hollow for thousands of people it simply abandoned.

The plans of passengers across Europe were thrown into disarray because of what – on the face of it – appears to be a baffling inability on the part of the airline to properly prepare for a long anticipated change to how its rostering arrangements work and a even more baffling attempt to get its timetabling back on track.

Instead of getting better, Ryanair has suddenly got a lot worse for a lot of people, and as it proceeds with plans to cancel hundreds of flights in the weeks ahead the news is not going to get better any time soon.

People will be given refunds or put on other flights, the airline has said. But such a course is a legal obligation and it deserves no credit for that. In any event, such a promise will be little comfort to anyone who finds out, sometimes only hours before the fact, that their flight has been cancelled.

Pan-European network

The line being trotted out by Ryanair is that only 2 per cent of flights across its vast pan-European network have been cancelled, working out at no more than 50 flights a day.

But what does 50 flights a day mean? How many people will suffer as a direct result of this move?

If there are 180 seats on a Ryanair plane and if each one is 90 per cent full when it takes off – the airline does love to boast about its impressive load factors – then almost 8,500 people will have their travel plans ruined each day over the next six weeks. That is more than 350,000 journeys in total.

And that is not all. While 2 per cent of flights will be cancelled, 100 per cent of Ryanair’s passengers will have doubts cast on their plans as the airline has only announced what flights will be cancelled up until the middle of this week. What happens after that is anyone’s guess.

If someone is due to travel with Ryanair next weekend or beyond what do they do? Do they hire cars or book hotel rooms or do they wait until the airline decides to tell them what is happening?

The airline has said its hands are tied and it has had no choice but to cancel those flights because it needs to get its holiday rosters in order because of calendar changes imposed on it by the EU.

Ultimately, it is a company’s responsibility to sort out its rosters. British Airways, Norwegian Air, Aer Lingus, and EasyJet all have to do so to ensure they deliver on their commitments to passengers.

A failure to do it right would spell serious problems for most airlines. But of course Ryanair is not most airlines, and it does not always play by the same rules as its peers.

It is hard to escape the notion that the message Ryanair is sending out is that, ultimately, it doesn’t care about its customers.

Maybe the reason for this is because if it has learned nothing else over the last 15 years it has learned it can treat its customers appallingly and still watch its business grow.

Cheap flights

And maybe it is right, because that’s the price we pay for access to cheaper airfares. Maybe it thinks it is untouchable precisely because history has shown it to be so?

It believes now – as it always has – that the only thing that talks is money, and as long as it promises people cheap flights people will keep buying tickets. Indeed, just as it was cancelling flights over the weekend it was sending out emails to customers boasting about the low fares coming down the tracks.

So what if weddings are ruined or if trips to see families and friends have to be abandoned or curtailed? Who cares if job interviews have to be missed?

For years Ryanair has styled itself as the “low fare airline”. The “don’t care airline” might now be closer to the truth.

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