Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has apologised for the inconvenience caused by a pilot rota blunder which has left hundreds of thousands of passengers unsure whether their flights will take off.
The budget airline conceded it had “messed up” the planning of pilot holidays and also blamed the cancellations on a backlog of crew leave, air traffic control strikes and weather disruptions.
The company said it was now in a position to publish, on its website by Monday evening, a full list of the average 50 flights a day it plans to cancel for the next six weeks to the end of October.
Image: Ryanair announced it was cutting 2% of flights for six weeks on Friday
It said on Friday that the move to cut 2% of all scheduled flights would improve punctuality, which fell below 80% in the first two weeks of September and give passengers certainty.
The chief executive told Sky News: “We sincerely apologise,” adding: “It is clearly a mess, but in the context of an operation where we operate nearly 2,500 flights every day it is reasonably small.
“But that doesn’t in any way take away the inconvenience we have caused to people whose flights have been cancelled.”
He later told a news conference the flights to be scrapped up to the end of next month would mainly fall on routes which had multiple daily services.
Mr O’Leary explained that it had taken time to identify those services as it had given priority to communicating with passengers due to travel in the short term – up to this Wednesday – first.
The action has affected hundreds of thousands of passengers, who have complained of being left stranded and of their holiday plans going “up in smoke”.
One bride-to-be tweeted: “#ryanaircancellations I’m really worried we fly out in two weeks to get married with 30 guests. No clue if our flight will be cancelled.”
Another passenger wrote: “Thanks #ryanair for making my Monday unusually exciting. Will my flight on Thursday be cancelled or not? #Shambles #ryanaircancellations.”
Ryanair has offered those affected a refund or an alternative flight – as demanded by EU rules.
Mr O’Leary explained that he did not foresee a repeat of the problem as it coincided with a shift in the company’s holiday year – from its financial year to a calendar year – as demanded by regulators.
Ryanair dismissed as a factor reports that it had lost 140 pilots to a Norwegian rival this year.
Its share price was down up to 3% at one stage on Monday before recovering just over half those losses.