Europe’s biggest airline just canceled 2,024 flights because it “messed up” pilots’ vacations

Image: Reuters/Tony Gentile
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Ryanair, Europe’s biggest budget airline, canceled 40 to 50 flights every day for the next six weeks because the carrier didn’t properly schedule time off for its pilots. A recent change to the way it organizes vacations left the airline with a backlog of staff that needed to take a holiday, leading to a shortage of pilots.

The full list of all canceled flights, which are expected to affect 400,000 customers and mainly routes through Brussels, Barcelona, Milan, and Rome, is available online from the airline, which is offering alternative flights or refunds. But Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said that he would refuse to extend this offer to finding flights for passengers on other airlines.

“We will not pay for flights on other airlines, no. It is not part of the EU261 entitlement,” he said in a press conference, referring to European passenger rights legislation. He continued: “This is our mess-up. When we make a mess in Ryanair we come out with our hands up. We try to explain why we’ve made the mess and we will pay compensation to those passengers who are entitled to compensation, which will be those flights that are cancelled over the next two weeks.”

On an analyst call, the Financial Times reported, he said the airline faced a €20 million ($24 million) bill for all the compensation it could award passengers and it would face a one-off €5 million hit to profits (paywall).

But, the issue of compensation is not explicitly explained to passengers on Ryanair’s webpage. Currently the webpage just links to a document of the rules on EU Regulation 261/2004 without explaining in the same way what options there are for a refund or alternative flight.

Customers are entitled to apply for compensation under certain conditions under EU law, as detailed by MoneySavingExpert.com. For example, passengers that find their flights canceled are entitled to €250 for short-haul, €440 for medium-haul, and €600 for long-haul flights, depending on when they were told. Passengers who also find that they reach their destination more than three hours late can also claim compensation of between €200 to €600.