Transport Minister Shane Ross has told Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary the pilot rostering fiasco that has left thousands of passengers stranded and cost the airline €117,000 a day in compensation is "unforgiveable".
Mr Ross told Mr O'Leary yesterday morning the passenger chaos caused by the budget airline was "unacceptable" and "should never happen again".
Speaking about the controversy for the first time, the minister told the Sunday Independent he received assurances from the airline boss that a plan to resolve the crisis would be in place by early next week.
"Our heart breaks for the passengers," Mr Ross said. "It's just unforgivable, but Mr O'Leary accepts that and Ryanair has got a wake-up call and that's a very good thing," he added. Mr Ross said he was also given assurances by the Ryanair boss that the airline was adhering to all safety regulations and there was no threat to passengers.
The minister said he was optimistic that everyone at Ryanair, including Mr O'Leary, is "determined to restore the airline's reputation and ensure passengers are never again victims of a similar fiasco".
Meanwhile, it has emerged customers are now voting with their feet by choosing to fly with other airlines.
Cormac Meehan, president of the Irish Travel Agents' Association, said travellers are looking elsewhere to book their flights.
"In general terms the agents seem to be coping well with it. Consumers, on the other hand, are voting with their feet," Mr Meehan said.
"A lot of them are saying they don't want to go Ryanair, but they're driven by what they can get in the marketplace," he added.
The airline is preparing to pay up to €20m in compensation to travellers affected by the cancellations.
It has now emerged that just over two weeks of cancelled flights from Ireland alone will cost the beleaguered airline some €2m.
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).
According to a senior aviation source, compensation payouts are set to hit between €1.5m and €2m for flights out of Ireland up to October 2.
Experts say the final bill will depend on the level of refunds requested, the number of passengers on each plane, and the number who demand financial compensation.
Analysts at Dublin-based Goodbody Stockbrokers have estimated the cancellations would cost the airline around €34.5m. This comprises €23.5m in compensation, €6.3m in lost fees, and €4.7m in subsistence such as meals, drinks and accommodation.
The decision to cancel up to 50 flights a day for the next five weeks has thrown the travel plans of more than 300,000 travellers into chaos.
Meanwhile, the US Allied Pilots Association, which represents 15,000 pilots at American Airlines, took a full-page newspaper advert yesterday in Ireland, imploring Michael O'Leary to "rethink his approach" to dealing with the airline's cockpit crews, "because an airline won't get very far without its pilots".
The advertisement is signed by Daniel Carey, the president of the Allied Pilots Association, which is headquartered in Texas.