Ryanair has promised to notify all customers of their rights to compensation, including rebooking on other airlines, as it attempted to avert legal action by the UK aviation watchdog.
The Civil Aviation Authority had ordered the airline to tell hundreds of thousands of passengers how it would provide alternatives to their cancelled flights, after it announced a further 18,000 flights would be axed from its schedules.
Ryanair promised to give full refunds, or rebooking on other Ryanair flights or comparable, low-cost carriers, as well as reimbursement of “reasonable out of pocket expenses”.
It said it had emailed all customers again to clarify their rights to refunds, after a wave of criticism from passengers, government and consumer groups. But Ryanair also took a swipe at the CAA, claiming it had not enforced similar action on British Airways after the IT meltdown that caused widespread cancellations in May.
The CAA said it was examining Ryanair’s response.
Ryanair’s chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, said: “We apologise again sincerely for the disruption and inconvenience our rostering failure has caused some of our customers.”
He said more than 90% of the 400,000 customers affected by the latest schedule changes would be refunded or rebooked by Sunday, while 97% of the first wave of cancelled passengers had been helped already, while all were receiving travel vouchers as well. He added: “We have restored the reliability and punctuality of our flight operations. Over the past seven days we have operated over 15,000 flights with over 96% of our first wave morning departures operating on time, or with zero flight cancellations.”
Referring to the EU passenger compensation law, EU261, he added: “We have taken on extra customer service staff and are moving now to process and expedite all EU261 claims from affected customers. We are committed to processing all such claims within 21 days of receipt and hope to have all such claims settled before the end of October.”
Earlier this week, the CAA’s chief executive, Andrew Haines, had given Ryanair an ultimatum, writing: “This issue is urgent, as passengers may already have been disadvantaged by taking a decision based on misleading information provided by Ryanair.” The CAA set a Friday, 5pm deadline for Ryanair to issue a press release addressing its concerns.
The CAA had condemned Ryanair for wrongly claiming it was not obliged to arrange new flights for passengers on rival airlines, and “omitting material information” about their rights.
The airline said it would scrap 18,000 flights on 34 routes between November 2017 and March 2018, affecting nearly 400,000 passengers. The move came a week after a first wave of cancellations was announced, with the company citing a problem with pilots’ rosters.
A group of pilots on Friday appealed directly to Ryanair shareholders, urging them to call an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to quiz O’Leary and his directors. They warned shareholders could see their investments suffer if they did not intervene to ensure the airline’s relationship with pilots and cabin crew does not deteriorate.
In an open letter, they said staff were disillusioned due to a “lack of wisdom, focus and a longer term strategy for the company”, warning that the company could face a wave of resignations by experienced pilots.
“The continuing problems at Ryanair show no signs of abating in the short term,” they said. “The Ryanair pilot group and staff firmly believe that these problems will only get worse. Ryanair management seem to be adopting a ‘head in the sand’ attitude towards the pilot shortage, which has been widely acknowledged by the aviation industry.”
Ryanair has denied it has been affected by a shortage of pilots.
“We feel that the shareholders should take action as soon as possible to protect their investments before these issues at Ryanair are compounded.”
The group said investors should use an EGM to question some of Ryanair’s assertions about the severity of its flight cancellations and the likelihood that more will follow.
They added that cancellations “will continue beyond March 2018 despite the communications from management”
Passengers waiting to depart on flights from Luton airport on Friday were scathing about Ryanair.
“We’re just glad we are not flying with them,” said Lianne Dolan, a nurse, ahead of flying to Amsterdam for a short break with 10 friends.
Expectations of Ryanair were not high among any of the Luton passengers who spoke to the Guardian. Paul Carvall, 53, who was flying with the airline to Kerry for a wedding, said: “I think really you’ve got to temper whatever you think about them with the fact that they are an out-and-out budget airline. Michael O’Leary does set out his stall like that.
“He’s got previous hasn’t he? He’s an abrasive fellow but he’s from the school of no publicity is bad publicity. He’s talked about passengers in the past being cattle, making them stand up, charging them for the toilet.”