Over 750,000 airline passengers are scrambling to make alternative travel plans since Ryanair has canceled yet another 18,000 flights that had been scheduled for between November and March. This most recent round of cancellations is on top of another 2,100 flights that were abruptly canceled a few weeks ago.
The Ryanair cancellations have left many travelers in the lurch since the carrier, based in Ireland, flies more international passengers than any other European airline. Its route network provides service to 34 countries in Europe, as well as Israel and Morocco.
CEO Michael O’Leary has come under fire for his reportedly brash demeanor and seemingly uncaring attitude toward customers and employees. The Economist wrote that Ryanair “has become a byword for appalling customer service.” One of the most notable shortfalls of the customer service department includes poor treatment of disabled passengers that led to a backlash from consumers that the airline just can’t seem to shake.
O’Leary says a change in the protocol that governs employees’ holiday leave is what led to the cancellation announcements. The number of pilots taking leave was not fully anticipated and resulted in the airline not having enough pilots to cover all of the scheduled flights. O’Leary attempted damage control by announcing Ryanair’s recent cancellations will allow the airline to totally overcome staffing shortages before fully resuming regular service on all of the routes in the future. But that statement is falling on deaf ears for some regulators.
The Civil Aviation Authority in Great Britain is accusing the airline of not properly informing passengers. The CAA asserts that those passengers are entitled to vouchers for future travel as well as compensation for additional costs incurred, such as newly necessitated transfers due to all of the re-routing. The only problem is Ryanair neglected to mention compensation and vouchers in its cancellation announcements. This omission led the CAA to issue a formal letter to Ryanair executives, warning of possible legal action. Following receipt of the CAA letter, the airline promised to comply with regulations.
Unlike many passengers, CEO Michael O’Leary remains upbeat. Ryanair says the cost of both rounds of cancellations will cost the airline less than €50m, a drop in the bucket for an international airline that regularly posts yearly profits in excess of €1.5bn. Passengers that fell victim to cancellations affecting travel from October and March will receive a €40 voucher. That voucher amount will be doubled to €80 for those that were planning a round trip.