Low-cost carrier Ryanair could face a compensation bill worth tens of millions of pounds after a decision to cancel up to 50 flights a day to offset staffing problems and improve its on-time performance.
The airline announced the cancellations Friday and said they would extend for six weeks after system-wide punctuality fell below 80 per cent in the first two weeks of September.
The Independent newspaper reported 170 flights were cancelled over the weekend affecting 30,000 customers.
The cancellations will be in effect until the end of October and come as the budget carrier recently introduced new cabin baggage restrictions for many customers in a bid to reduce delays.
Ryanair operates more than 2500 daily flights and says the cancellations account for about 2 per cent of its flying.
It blamed the fall in on-time performance on a combination of air traffic control capacity delays and strikes, weather disruptions and a change in staff holiday allocations.
It said it had increased holiday allocations to pilots and cabin crew in the nine months to December, 2017 as it moves its holiday year to match the calendar year from January 1.
The change in holiday policy created a backlog in crew leave that needed to be taken before December 31 as the airline operated a record summer schedule that saw combined July-August passenger numbers top 25 million.
But the tighter crewing numbers and the impact of ATC capacity restrictions in the UK, Germany and Spain, as well as French ATC strikes and adverse weather, saw on-time performance decline from 90 per cent to under 80 per cent over the past two weeks.
This punctuality was unacceptable to Ryanair and its customers, the airline said.
“By cancelling less than 2 per cent of our flying program over the next six weeks, until our winter schedule starts in early November, we can improve the operational resilience of our schedules and restore punctuality to our annualised target of 90 per cent,’’ Ryanair’s Robin Kiely said in a statement.
Kiely apologised to affected customers and said the airline would be doing its utmost to arrange alternative flights “and/or full refunds for them”.
But those customers are also entitled to compensation of up to 400 euros ($US478) each under European law.
The Independent estimated the bill could top £100 ($US136m) million if every customer claimed.
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