Ryanair has said that it will fly fewer aircraft this winter in an attempt to eliminate the risk of further flight cancellations.
The budget airline said that by reducing its flying schedule in this way – by 25 less aircraft in November and 10 less aircraft from April 2018 – it will slow its growth, creating spare aircraft and crews.
According to a detailed Ryanair statement on Wednesday afternoon, the airline plans to roster all of the extra pilot leave necessary in October, November and December to meet the Irish Aviation Authority’s (IAA) requirement, starting the new calendar leave year from January 1, 2018 with no backlog.
It added that its monthly growth between November 2017 and March 2018, will slow from 9pc to 4pc. Its full-year traffic, to the end of next March, will moderate from the previously expected 131 million passengers, to 129 million passengers, which is still 7.5pc higher than in the last financial year.
“By slowing our summer 2018 fleet growth from 445 to 435 aircraft, we expect traffic to March 2019 will slow from 142m to 138m, a 7pc rate of growth,” it added.
It also said it intends to roll out a series of low fare seat sales for winter 2017 as it is confident that there will be no further roster related cancellations.
For customers, Ryanair said that flying 25 fewer aircraft this winter will result in a number of flight and schedule changes from November to March 2018. There are just under 400,000 customers booked on these flights.
Ryanair said that less than 1pc of the 50m customers Ryanair will carry this winter are affected by the aircraft reductions, and that all of those customers received an email today giving them between five weeks and five months’ notice of these schedule changes, offering them alternative flights or full refunds of their airfare.
The airline, headed by Michael O’Leary, also said that it appreciates the “widespread support” it has received from its 4,200 pilots over the past number of weeks as it struggled with its flights fiasco.
Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary apologised to those customers who have been affected by last week’s flight cancellations.
“While over 99pc of our 129m customers will not have been affected by any cancellations or disruptions, we deeply regret any doubt we caused existing customers last week about Ryanair’s reliability, or the risk of further cancellations,” he said.
“From today, there will be no more rostering related flight cancellations this winter or in summer 2018.
“Slower growth this winter, will create lots of spare aircraft and crews which will allow us to manage the exceptional volumes of annual leave we committed to delivering in the nine months to Dec 2017. We will start a new 12 month leave period on the 1st of Jan 2018 in full compliance with EU regulations and the IAA’s requirements.”
All of the passengers who have been affected by these disruptions have now been offered re-accommodation or full refunds and their applicable EU261 entitlements.
“In addition today, they are receiving a travel voucher (€40 one way/€80 return) which they may use to book any Ryanair flight of their choice during October for travel between October and March 2018. We look forward to welcoming them all on board,” said Mr O’Leary.
Ryanair said it expects to generate slightly lower yields over the next two months as it promotes seat sales. It said it does not expect these initiatives to alter its current financial year guidance generating a profit after tax of between €1.4bn and €1.45bn.
“Hundreds of pilots, and many of their ERC’s (Employee Representative Committees) have been in regular contact with the airline offering to work days off, to work one week of their allocated month of leave, and offering to go public to correct the false claims made about them, and Ryanair, by competitor airline pilots in certain media outlets,” according to the statement.
“We appreciate their professionalism,” it added.
Ryanair said it has also written to its pilots “to correct last week’s false claims made about our pilot recruitment”.
“In the current year, under 100 captains have left (mainly to retirement or long haul airlines) and less than 160 first officers (mostly to long haul airlines),” the airline stated.
“Over the next eight months Ryanair has recruited and will train over 650 pilots, not only to replace these leavers/retirees, but also to crew up for the 50 new Boeing aircraft we will buy to May 2018 to bring our fleet to 445 for summer 2018.”
It added: “Contrary to false claims of pilot shortages, Ryanair has in recent weeks seen a big surge in pilot applications from Gulf carriers and in Germany and Italy, where both Air Berlin and Alitalia are in bankruptcy and hundreds of their pilots are facing job losses or steep cuts in their pay and conditions.”