Ryanair fights to limit damage after flight cancellations land €25m bill
Michael O’Leary’s held a press conference on Monday to apologise for 2,100 flight cancellations. The Ryanair CEO has said: “This is clearly a mess up. I take responsibility. Have I damaged Ryanair’s reputation with these cancellations? Yes. But I would rather damage the reputation of Ryanair by cancelling 50 flights a day than significantly delaying 40 per cent of our flights which would amount to 800 flights a day.”
He denied that the issue was caused by the airline being short of pilots, adding: “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.” The full schedule of cancellations has now been published until the end of October, 250,000 customers will no longer be eligible for EU261 compensation. The payout is only due when changes are made with less than two weeks’ notice.
Pilots are threatening to cause further misery for Ryanair passengers, hundreds of thousands of whom were told this week that their flights would be cancelled at short notice due to a shortage of crew. Pilots met in Dublin yesterday to consider taking some form of industrial action and meetings are expected to be held at Ryanair’s other European bases, including the UK, this week. The Irish pilots’ union, IALPA, claims Ryanair’s explanation for the ‘mess-up’ in scheduling holiday leave is not the whole reason behind the flight cancellations.
The aviation news world continues to report on Ryanair’s staffing problems, which have seen the airline cancel thousands of flights over the next six weeks. Michael O’Leary, the Ryanair chief executive, told various News outlets that the number of pilots on standby had fallen to 20-30 a day in early September, compared with its typical cover of 200. Its move to cancel up to 2,100 flights over the next six weeks has seen the number of standby pilots rise to more than 100 a day.
Ryanair’s chief executive blamed its rostering system for failing to warn the airline that it did not have enough pilots on standby if there were unexpected problems, such as air traffic control strikes or bad weather. He said the airline was working out what the minimum number of standby pilots should be. It is also in the process of buying back leave from pilots.
Responding to speculation that pilots were leaving in their droves for airlines like Norwegian, Mr O’Leary denied that Ryanair had an overall shortage of pilots, noting it had increased pilot numbers over the past year to more than 4,200 and had a waiting list of about 2,500. The Daily Mail said the shortage was having a ‘devastating’ effect on customers. It describes Ryanair as ‘stingy’ and ‘penny pinching’, and suggests that EU compensation will not cover customers’ expenses for lost hotels and car hire. The Daily Telegraph notes that customers are being offered a refund or to rebook their flights. It says that those who choose to rebook are being asked to pay again for extras they had already paid for, like seat selection or to check in bags. Ryanair said it would refund these customers. The paper said it had also seen a memo asking pilots to work overtime to prevent further cancellations in return for a one-off payment of £12,000.
A Ryanair pilot spoke on LBC yesterday morning with presenter Nick Ferrari explaining some of the myths and giving clarity on pilot salaries, working practices and other terms and conditions. The pilot said he and his colleagues feel angry and betrayed by their CEO.
To attempt to sort out the mess O’Leary has said the airline will recruit 120 pilots within the next week or two. This probably goes to prove the widely thought theory that Ryanair is short of pilots due to too many leaving. It is also impossible for new pilots to be recruited and trained to fly Ryanair aircraft in one to two weeks. If Ryanair can take on pilots that already have a B737 type rating then it significantly reduces their training time, however they still need to do a company induction, with a ground school training element, LPC sims with Ryanair differences course and then line training on the aircraft. Even if they recruit rated pilots that are unemployed and therefore do not have notice periods to give at current employers then the time from being recruited to qualified on the aircraft would be a minimum of 4-6 weeks with non-rated pilots more like 8-12 weeks and that is before any current notice period is handed in at their current employer.
The only other way would be through contract pilots, paying high agency costs, but again, experienced B737 flight crews are just not available.
Watch this space. We will update you has we receive further information, news and developments.