Aviation minister Lord Callanan has told Ryanair to be “unequivocal in its communications to its passengers about their rights relating to compensation” after the airline axed 2,100 flights over the next six weeks.
He also insisted in a letter, seen by The Times, that customers should be accommodated even if they travelled with other airlines following Ryanair “messing up” crew holidays.
“In the event of any disruption or cancellation, airlines must ensure customers are fully compensated and every effort is made to provide appropriate care and assistance, as well as alternative travel arrangements,” the minister wrote.
“This includes offering to re-book passengers to flights with other airlines, if this is appropriate in the circumstances.”
Details of the letter emerged as consumer group Which? criticised the low cost carrier’s approach to compensating travellers caught up in the flight cancellation chaos as falling “woefully short” of legal requirements.
Ryanair has said that it would not reimburse passengers who chose to fly with other carriers rather than wait for a Ryanair flight.
The airline admitted that 45% of passengers had not been accommodated on other flights by last night and only 20% of refunds had been processed.
However, it expected that more than 95% of passengers would have alternative flights or refunds by the end of the week.
Alex Neill, of Which?, said: “Ryanair’s approach to informing affected passengers about compensation falls woefully short.
“It is legally required to spell out compensation rules when a flight is cancelled and, in our view, has so far failed to do that, leaving passengers hunting around for information.”
Ryanair chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said: “We apologise sincerely to each and every one of the 315,000 customers whose original flights were cancelled over a six-week period in September and October, while we work to resolve this short term rostering failure.
“We have taken on extra customer service teams to speed up the rate at which we accommodate and action alternative flight requests or refund applications. We expect to have the vast majority of these completed by the end of this week.
“The vast majority of these requests are being dealt with online, but as our call centres and chat lines are extremely busy, we ask affected customers to bear with us as we do everything we can to respond to their requests and try to resolve any problems we have created for them, for which we again sincerely apologise.”
Meanwhile, the UK pilots’ union urged Ryanair to do more to encourage pilots to stay with the airline as the BBC reported that a group of the Irish carrier’s pilots had rejected cash bonuses to work extra days.
The British Airline Pilots’ Association said it had offered to help Ryanair make the airline a more “attractive place for people to build their career”.
The association said it recognised Ryanair has an issue in retaining pilots past the early stages of their career, where, once they have gained enough hours, many pilots move on to other airlines.
The intervention came as the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association announced that the airline has lost 700 pilots in the last financial year.
Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said: “It seems Ryanair has been just about scraping through the summer schedule and having no flexibility in the system, coupled with a miscalculation of pilot annual leave, has led to this disastrous situation.
“We believe these working conditions are leading to pilots leaving the airline after a few years to go work for other airlines.
“The company needs to be a career airline, where pilots feel valued, not over-stretched. We would be happy to work with Ryanair on this issue to ensure it is an airline where pilots are proud to work.
“And indeed, we have around 500 unemployed pilot members looking for work who would be more than happy to work for Ryanair, should working conditions be improved in the airline.”
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