Ryanair Holdings Plc scrapped 82 flights on Sunday, the start of a six-week program of cancellations it’s making as it seeks to reduce a backlog of crew vacation required by Irish regulators before the end of the year.
“We have messed up in the planning of pilot holidays and we’re working hard to fix that,” Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement Saturday.
In the statement, the Dublin-based carrier said it expected to cancel 40 to 50 flights daily, “with a slightly higher number this weekend.”
Ryanair will offer refunds or alternative flights to affected customers over the period, it said in a statement on Friday, adding that the cancellations, which amount to about 2 percent of its network, won’t have an impact on earnings in September and October. Between 308,000 and 385,000 passengers could be impacted over the period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg based on the airline’s passenger statistics.
Ryanair is mandated by the Irish Aviation Authority to bring time off for the staff in line with the calendar year from Jan. 1, requiring it to distribute the backlog before the end of the year. That’s left the carrier without enough pilots and flight attendants to man its full fleet of Boeing Co. 737s until the start of its winter timetable in November.
“We have operated a record schedule and traffic during the peak summer months of July and August but must now allocate annual leave to pilots and cabin crew,” spokesman Robin Kiely said in the Friday statement. “We apologize sincerely to the small number of customers affected by these cancellations, and will be doing our utmost to arrange alternative flights and/or full refunds for them.”
The move is also aimed at bringing punctuality back up to 90 percent by providing additional standby aircraft, after Ryanair’s on-time performance fell below 80 percent in the first two weeks of September. The delays have been prompted by air traffic control issues in France, the U.K., Germany and Spain, as well as thunderstorms, it said in the release.
Flights are operating as usual for customers who haven’t received emailed communication from the carrier, Europe’s biggest discount airline said in an update Saturday. Ryanair has been flying its 189-seat planes at record load factors, with 12.7 million customers in August and an occupancy rate of 97 percent.
Ryanair’s shares slid 2 percent on Friday, to 17.07 euros ($20.39) in Dublin. That followed a 3.4 percent dive on Sept. 14, after a ruling by the European Union’s top court was seen leading to a possible increase in employment costs. They remain up 18 percent on the year.
–With assistance from Ros Krasny
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.