Between four and six flights into and out of Dublin Airport will be cancelled by Ryanair every day between now and the end of October as part of a programme that will see an average of 48 flights scrapped daily across its pan-European network, the airline has confirmed.
No other Irish airport is likely to be affected as Ryanair concentrates its cancellations on hubs across Europe – including Barcelona, Brussels, Lisbon, London Stansted, Madrid, Milan Bergamo, Porto and Rome.
This is our mess-up. When we make a mess in Ryanair we come out with our hands up
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary moved yesterday to contain the reputational damage that has been done to the airline in recent days by issuing an abject apology for the manner in which it has handled the cancellations since last Friday.
“This is our mess-up. When we make a mess in Ryanair we come out with our hands up,” he said at a press conference in Ryanair’s headquarters in Dublin.
“We try to explain why we’ve made the mess and we will pay compensation to those passengers who are entitled to compensation, which will be those flights that are cancelled over the next two weeks.”
He added that the airline was “not short of pilots” and he said the cancellations were because it had “messed up in the allocation of holidays and trying to overallocate holidays during September and October, while we’re still running most of the summer schedule, and taking flight delays because of principally air traffic control and weather disruptions.”
He said that by focusing the cancellations on its busiest airports, where there are multiple flights each day, it would be better able to accommodate affected passengers on alternative flights.
He claimed 75 per cent of those whose flights were cancelled would be flown out on the same day, with the remainder taken care of either on the day before or the day after their scheduled departures.
He repeatedly apologised to more than 300,000 people who will be directly affected by the airline’s rolling programme of flight cancellations and to the 18 million passengers who have seen a cloud of uncertainty hang over their travel plans since last Friday.
Mr O’Leary claimed the company would be paying out compensation to passengers who qualify under EU rules without quibble, and estimated the cost in lost revenue as a result of the cancellation programme would be about €5 million, while it expected to pay out as much as €20 million in compensation to passengers.
Mr O’Leary said the airline took the decision on Friday afternoon to cancel flights because, over the previous nine days, punctuality across its network had fallen from about 90 cent to less than 70 per cent.
He said the thinking behind the cancellations was that it was better to disrupt 2 per cent of passengers by cancelling their planes altogether than up to 45 per cent who would otherwise have faced significant delays.
“Yes it was short notice and yes it was unexpected and for that I sincerely apologise,” Mr O’Leary said. “It is clearly a mess, but in the context of an operation where we operate more than 2,500 flights every day, it is reasonably small but that doesn’t take away the inconvenience we’ve caused to people.”
He stressed that the problems the airlines had experienced in recent days were not the result of pilots quitting but were “because we’re giving pilots lots of holidays over the next four months” and he insisted the problems would not happen again.
“This issue will not recur in 2018 as Ryanair goes back on to a 12-month calendar leave. Ryanair is not short of pilots – we were able to fully crew our peak summer schedule,” Mr O’Leary said, adding that the disruption was a “mess of our own making”.
Ryanair has lost as much as €2.1 billion of its market value since the middle of last week, as the carrier’s move to cancel flights added to the impact of news last week of a potentially costly European court ruling.