Ryanair has warned customers that it will cancel as many as 50 flights every day over the next six weeks.
The decision has been taken due to a huge backlog of annual leave which has seen large numbers of the airline’s staff book holidays towards the end of the year.
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Punctuality fell below 80% over the last fortnight, with the budget airline also blaming air traffic control delays and strikes, and bad weather.
A spokesman admitted the figure is ‘unacceptable’, but added that cutting 2% of its timetable would help performance while allowing staff to go on holiday.
Passengers affected will be offered alternative flights or refunds, Ryanair said.
The company explained that its holiday year had been changed from April to March to a calendar year starting on January 1 2018.
This led to many workers booking time off before the end of the year so they could use their daily allocation.
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Customers have taken to social media to complaining about their treatment, with some saying they were unable to cancel a hotel booking and left out of pocket.
Maria Joanna Suquitana said guests heading to her brother’s wedding in Italy had their flights cancelled hours before departure.
She wrote on Facebook: ‘We were forced to rent a van from Germany and drive 16 hours because we just can’t trust to fly with you again. Most stressful days of our lives.’
Karen Naughton Brill said her daughter’s plan to celebrate her 21st birthday in Amsterdam was ‘ruined’ when the flight was cancelled.
She said: ‘She’s gone to bed in tears, rang hotel, can’t get refund too short notice, same with parking, Anne Frank house tickets etc etc all non-refundable.’
Ryanair’s Kenny Jacobs said: ‘We will cancel 40 to 50 flights daily for the next six weeks, (less than 2% of our schedule) with a slightly higher number this weekend as we begin to implement these cancellations.
‘Flights are operating as scheduled unless an email confirming a cancellation has been received. We advise customers to check the email address used to make their booking.
‘Cancellation notices for flights cancelled up to and including Wednesday 20 September have been sent to affected customers and we will continue to send regular updates and post flight information on our website.
‘We apologise to all affected customers for these cancellations. We have messed up in the planning of pilot holidays and we’re working hard to fix that.’