Saturday 18 August 2018

'It is clearly a mess...we sincerely apologise' - Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary

  • Press briefing with final flight cancellation list expected at 4pm
  • Ryanair preparing for up to €20m in compensation claims - spokesperson
  • All you need to know about Ryanair travel chaos
Michael O'Leary
Michael O'Leary
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Ryanair has come under fire for cancelling up to 50 flights a day for the next six weeks as it moves to reduce a backlog of holidays for staff.

A spokeswoman for the budget airline said Ryanair is preparing for up to €20m in compensation claims, according to Reuters.

In a doorstep interview by Sky News, CEO Michael O'Leary said that Ryanair "sincerely apologise" and that the airline is "working very hard" to finalise the list of flight cancellations.

Final list of cancellations

Mr O'Leary said the final list will represent "less than 2pc of our customers" and it is expected that Ryanair will hold a press conference at 4pm today when this list has been finalised.

Mr O'Leary said the flight cancellations were not as a result of pilots quitting but because "we're giving pilots lots of holidays over the next number of months".

"It is clearly a mess but in context of an operational where we operate more than 2,500 flights a day it is reasonably small," he said.

"That doesn't take away in any way the inconvenience of it to those people whose flights have been cancelled."

Mr O'Leary also said that "everyone is entitled to compensation, everyone will receive full compensation".

Compensation

According to the Commission for Aviation Regulation, if Ryanair cancels a flight, it must offer you the choice of an alternative flight at the earliest opportunity or at a later date of your choice subject to the availability of seats or a full refund of the ticket.

Ryanair can offer a passenger comparable transport to the final destination if no alternative flight with the airline is available.

"When a place is served by several airports, Ryanair may offer a flight to an alternative airport to that originally booked.  Ryanair is then obliged to bear the cost of transferring you to the airport that you had booked or to another close-by destination agreed with you," according to a commission statement on Monday.

Furthermore, if your agreed rerouted flight departs later than your original, you must be offered care and assistance free of charge while waiting for your rerouted flight.

"Specifically, reasonable meals and refreshments in relation to the waiting time, hotel accommodation in cases where an overnight stay becomes necessary, transport between the airport and place of accommodation and two telephone calls, emails, faxes or telexes."

Editor in Chief of money.co.uk Hannah Maundrell said that Ryanair "have really messed up".

"If your flight has been cancelled, ask for a refund. You should get your money back within 7 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," she said.

"If your flight is delayed by over two hours you should be able to get food and drink covered at the airport and accommodation if you need to stay overnight."

Ms Maundrell said that, generally, if your flight is delayed by over three hours you can claim compensation for the inconvenience. Cancellation amounts vary from €250 to €600 depending on your flight.

"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," she added.

'Misleading commercial practices'

Brian Hayes said that Ryanair could be in breach of the EU’s Unfair Commercial Practices Directive through ‘misleading commercial practices’.

"Ryanair’s decision to cancel up to 50 flights per day for the next six weeks is an act of gross negligence in commercial behaviour. Up to 400,000 passengers could be affected," he said.

"I am calling on the CCPC to conduct an investigation into Ryanair’s cancellation of flights. There are clear problems with Ryanair’s actions under EU consumer protection law. Given the scale of the problem and the number of consumers affected, this issue should be addressed immediately and given priority by the CCPC."

"Ryanair has been the biggest beneficiary of the EU’s Single Aviation Market and it has taken full advantage of the single market. Passengers have also benefited from Ryanair’s offering through cheap flights. Yet mass cancellations like this cannot go unpunished," he said.

 "It needs to be made very clear that there are high standards of consumer protection in the EU that Ryanair needs to adhere to. As Ryanair is headquartered in Ireland, the CCPC also has a responsibility to show that it is enforcing EU consumer law properly."

Read more: 'Ryanair have really messed up here' - Full list of cancelled flights released

Ryanair Q&A: What if my flights are cancelled? Can I get compensation?

Why is Ryanair cancelling flights?

Ryanair is cancelling up to 50 flights a day for the next six weeks as it moves to reduce a backlog of holidays for staff and improve punctuality.

The airline has apologised sincerely to affected customers for what it says is "clearly a mess". But there is widespread outrage at the sudden action.

The Irish Travel Agents’ Association says it shows “utter disdain” towards consumers, and the airline’s share price has been plummeting.

Read a full explainer on the cancellations here.

How many flights are affected?

The airline says ‘less than 2pc’ of its schedule will be affected over six weeks.

However, that’s a busy schedule. Ryanair's Boeing 737-800s seat up to 189 passengers - filled to 97pc capacity (the airline's load factor for August), that could mean over 9,160 customers are affected every day.

The latest lists of cancelled flights are here.

How do I know if my flights are affected?

Ryanair says it is emailing all customers on cancelled flights (check the email address you used to make the booking). You can also check the airline's website.

What are my rights if my flight is cancelled?

Flight cancellation rights are covered under EC Regulation 261/2004.

If your flight is cancelled for any reason, and regardless of when you are notified, your airline must offer you the choice between:

1) Re-routing as soon as possible, subject to availability, free of charge.

2) Re-routing at a later date.

3) A full refund.

How do I arrange a re-routing or refund?

Ryanair’s website includes the steps to process your own refunds or bookings here. These should be refunded back to the original source of payment within seven working days.

Am I entitled to care and assistance?

If your flight is cancelled and you choose to be re-routed as soon as possible, then you are entitled to meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation and transfers between the airport and hotel as required. If the airline does not provide these, and you end up paying yourself, keep the receipts - you are entitled to a reimbursement of reasonable expenses.

NB. A five-star hotel may not be a reasonable expense!

Bear in mind that if your flight is cancelled and you choose a full refund, then the airline's obligations to you end there and then.

I'm overseas. My return flight is cancelled. What now?

Ryanair has a duty of care to you (see above). Go to the airport, where it must offer you care and assistance until it can get you home.

If you choose to fly with another airline or get home another way, you don't have the same rights to care and assistance, and may have a hard time claiming compensation (see below).

I’m flying within the next six weeks. What do I do?

Ryanair's failure to quickly release a full list of cancellations has been a huge source of frustration for passengers booked (and booking) to travel.

Since it announced the cancellations last Friday, it has continued to sell flights for the next six weeks, and 'autumn getaway' sale fares from €19.99.

A full list is expected today.

Before it is released, any rearrangements you make are at your own expense. Ryanair is not obliged to offer refunds or re-routing for any flights that have not (yet) been confirmed as cancelled.

Am I entitled to compensation?

Financial compensation depends on the flight length and the reason for the cancellation. It ranges from €250 (short-haul, less than 1,500km) to €600 (long-haul, over 3,500km).

Here are three scenarios:

1) If you receive less than seven days notice of cancellation and choose to be re-routed as soon as possible, you will NOT be entitled to compensation - provided your new flights depart within one hour of the original departure and land within two hours of the original arrival.

2) If you receive between seven days and two weeks notice of cancellation, provided you choose to be re-routed and are facilitated with a new flight that departs no more than two hours before the original departure time and arrives no more than four hours after the original arrival time, you are NOT entitled to compensation.

3) If you receive notification of two weeks or more, you will NOT be entitled to compensation - provided, of course, that the airline offers full re-routing or refund options.

NB. If the air carrier can prove the cancellation was due to extraordinary circumstances, then you may NOT be entitled to compensation. However, you are still due a refund or re-routing.

So far, Ryanair has been apologetic and not invoked any "extraordinary circumstance". The Commission for Aviation Regulation has been speaking with Ryanair on the matter.

How do I claim compensation?

Contact the airline.

If you're not satisfied with its response, then you can escalate by contacting the Commission for Aviation Regulation (01 661-1700; flightrights.ie).

How can my travel insurance help?

In the event of a flight cancellation, the first source of refunds and re-routing should be with your airline. Standard travel insurance policies don't offer much help here.

However, if your policy includes extra cover for "travel disruption" you can be covered for additional transport or accommodation costs up to €1,000pp, according to Ciaran Mulligan, Managing Director of Blue Insurance.

Travel Disruption cover costs extra, and though you can add it retrospectively to a policy, you cannot add it to claim on an event that has already happened.

Also worth noting is the fact that it covers transport and accommodation-related expenses only - i.e. not a host of other potential losses, ranging from lost annual leave or business opportunities to deposits, concert tickets or museum or attraction fees booked in advance online.

If my outbound flight is cancelled, what happens my return flight?

If a given flight isn't subject to disruption, technically you are not entitled to any care or compensation. However, airlines can take a logical view, and have been known to work with passengers to refund or reschedule flights impacted in this way. Check with it for details.

Where can I find more information?

For full details on your air passenger rights in the event of cancellation, delays and more, see flightrights.ie.

Read more:

What happens if my flights are cancelled?

Online Editors

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business