The cost to Ryanair of cancelling hundreds of flights due to a “mess up” in crew holiday rotas will reach at least £20 million, boss Michael O’Leary admitted yesterday.

Around 400,000 passengers will be directly affected, but he said a decision had been made to disrupt the plans of 2% of travellers in order to offer a better service to the remaining passengers.

The majority of affected passengers will be offered alternative flights on the same or next day.

Passengers who cannot, or do not wish to take the alternative flights offered will receive a full refund and compensation under the EU261 passenger rights legislation, according to the airline.

Ryanair will not book passengers onto flights with other airlines.

And those on flights cancelled throughout most of October will not be eligible for compensation because the cancellations were made with more than two weeks’ notice. Instead, they will get a refund or be booked on an alternative Ryanair flight.

More than 200 of the cancelled flights are either into or out of Stansted, with a number from Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham also affected.

The airline published a full list of flight cancellations between September 21 and October 31 following a groundswell of anger from disrupted passengers.

Europe’s largest low fares carrier is grounding up to 50 flights a day over the next six weeks.

Chief executive O’Leary said the action would cost the airline £4.4 million in lost profits and £17.7 million in compensation.

Flights will be cancelled at airports where there are the busiest schedules, so it would be easier to accommodate passengers on alternative flights.

Rome, Milan, Brussels and Barcelona airports will see a significant number of flights, either or in or out, cancelled. Other affected airports include Dublin, Lisbon, Madrid and Porto.

O’Leary denied reports that the staff shortage had been compounded by 140 pilots quitting to join rival Norwegian.

He said: “While over 98% of our customers will not be affected by these cancellations over the next six weeks, we apologise unreservedly to those customers whose travel will be disrupted, and assure them that we have done our utmost to try to ensure that we can re-accommodate most of them on alternative flights on the same or next day.

“Ryanair is not short of pilots – we were able to fully crew our peak summer schedule in June, July and August.

“But we have messed up the allocation of annual leave to pilots in September and October because we are trying to allocate a full year’s leave into a nine month period from April to December.”

He added: “This issue will not recur in 2018 as Ryanair goes back onto a 12 month calendar leave year from 1 January to 31 December 2018.

“This is a mess of our own making. I apologise sincerely to all our customers for any worry or concern this has caused them over the past weekend.

“We have only taken this decision to cancel this small proportion of our 2,500 daily flights so that we can provide extra standby cover and protect the punctuality of the 98% of flights that will be unaffected by these cancellations.”

Coby Benson, flight delay legal manager at law firm Bott & Co – which saw a soaring number of compensation claims against the airline over the weekend – said: “Much to Ryanair’s credit they appear to have been open and candid about the ‘mess up’ that has led to thousands of passengers’ flights being cancelled over the next six weeks.

“As these circumstances were within Ryanair’s control they will have to bear the cost of this mistake and pay passengers compensation of up to €600, where their flights were cancelled with less than 14 days notice.”


Aviation minister attacks Ryanair over flight cancellations