Rachel McAdam, Contributor.
On the 16th of September, Ryanair announced that it would cancel 40-50 flights everyday over the following six weeks. This was due to a ‘mess up’ by the budget airline surrounding scheduling of pilots’ annual leave and affected hundreds of thousands of passengers.
Just as the fuss and criticism over the disaster subsided slightly, Ryanair published a list of routes that would be suspended from the winter season, November 2017 through to March 2018. This included their popular flight from Belfast to London Gatwick, along with 33 other flights that are now estimated to affect up to 385,000 customers.
St Agnes’ Choral Society from Belfast were due to travel to London with Ryanair as part of their 60th anniversary celebrations at the start of November. The last minute cancellation of this flight for this large group planning to travel together came as a ‘‘complete surprise’’ to chairman Gareth McGreevy. Alternative arrangements were costing up to double the original price, leaving many members in doubt as to whether they could still attend, despite hotels and shows already booked and paid for.
Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, said all of the passengers who had been affected by these disruptions had been offered re-scheduled flights or full refunds. However, it was not made clear from the email received by affected customers that Ryanair were compelled to book passengers on a flight with a rival airline if they were to choose the re-scheduled option.
This resulted in many customers choosing the refund option, which meant they would receive only a portion of what it now costs to book an alternative flight on another airline.
Hope came for ‘fobbed off’ customers when the Civil Aviation Authority launched action against Ryanair on Thursday of this week for ‘persistently misleading passengers’ about their rights. The BBC have now reported that the budget airline must reimburse travellers who have accepted a refund with the difference of the higher fare and those who have been misled into accepting an unsatisfactory re-routing must be offered the option of changing it.
Ryanair has survived a hefty amount of criticism over the years, due to the demand for a low fare airline, however it may struggle following this crisis due to its tremendous scale and because of new budget airlines emerging and growing in popularity. Norwegian Air, now claiming to be ‘Europe’s best low-cost airline,’ have recently expanded into both Belfast and Dublin – Ryanair’s home.
Rumours have been flying around social media that the crisis has occurred not due to a scheduling error as Michael O’Leary has claimed, but instead that many Ryanair pilots have moved to Norwegian, although the Ryanair boss denies this claim.
New emails must be sent out by the 4th of October, after being checked and approved by the CAA.