Ryanair lurches deeper into cancellations crisis
Ryanair said it plans to cancel more flights, affecting around 400,000 customers until March, as it struggles with a shortage of pilots. (AFP/Paul FAITH)
LONDON: Ryanair plunged deeper into crisis on Wednesday (Sep 27) with the cancellation of more flights that threatened the travel plans of another 400,000 customers, while the low-cost airline dropped its bid for Italy's Alitalia.The Dublin-based carrier has been plagued by a pilot shortage that has forced it to axe thousands of flights - and has now extended cancellation plans to early 2018.Ryanair plans to fly 25 fewer aircraft during its winter schedule, hitting less than one percent of its customers but more than doubling the amount of passengers originally affected by a crisis plaguing the Irish no-frills airline since mid-September.In addition, it will operate ten fewer aircraft from April 2018, further affecting its growth plans.The latest move will "eliminate all risk of further flight cancellations, because slower growth creates lots of spare aircraft and crews across Ryanair's 86 bases this winter", it said in a statement.Taking more flights out of service means that Ryanair will be able to "roster all of the extra pilot leave necessary" in October, November and December.
It also plans to roll out a series of seat sales for winter 2017 as it is "confident that there will be no further roster related cancellations".ALITALIA BID AXEDAnd the airline sprang another surprise with the withdrawal of its bid to buy Italian carrier Alitalia, after announcing a non-binding offer in July."In order to focus on repairing this rostering problem this winter, Ryanair will eliminate all management distractions starting with its interest in Alitalia," it said in a statement.
"We have notified the Alitalia bankruptcy commissioners that we will not be pursuing our interest in Alitalia or submitting any further offers for the airline."Meanwhile, Wednesday's fresh batch of cancellations will affect 34 routes, including London-Belfast, Hamburg-Oslo and Bucharest-Palermo."While over 99 per cent of our 129 million customers will not have been affected by any cancellations or disruptions, we deeply regret any doubt we caused existing customers ... about Ryanair's reliability, or the risk of further cancellations," said chief executive Michael O'Leary.He added: "We sincerely apologise to those customers who have been affected by last week's flight cancellations, or these sensible schedule changes announced today."Ryanair had already canned 2,100 flights in the six weeks to the end of October as it struggled with landing planes on time, reportedly mainly owing to a shortage of pilots.Weather issues and strikes have also hampered the group's performance.The cancellations jeopardised the travel plans of 315,000 customers, but the carrier has now been forced to more than double the number of passengers affected.€40 TRAVEL VOUCHERRyanair on Wednesday said it had emailed all passengers hit by the latest cancellations, offering them alternative flights or a full refund. They have also received a €40 travel voucher.There was no immediate indication of how costly the latest cancellations would be to the company.The grounding of planes to the end of October was already set to cost it €25 million (US$30 million) - €5 million of lost profit and €20 million in compensation under EU rules - O'Leary had said.Ryanair is currently scrapping 40 to 50 flights daily - "less than two per cent" of its flying programme - to address problems caused also by air traffic control (ATC) delays, strikes and weather disruption.But the Dublin-based carrier has admitted that it has been hit also by pilots and cabin crew being forced to take outstanding holiday entitlement by the end of the year as part of new company rules."For the ... Ryanair customers who are unaffected by these (latest) flight cancellations and schedule changes, this slower rate of growth means that from today there is no risk of further roster-related" grounding of planes, the airline added in Wednesday's statement.