In Brief

Can Ryanair survive yet another storm?

Scheduling problem causes budget airline to cancel more flights and pull out of Alitalia takeover bid

Budget airline Ryanair is cancelling another 400,000 bookings between November and March, the carrier said yesterday.

A total of 18,000 flights over more than 30 routes have been suspended over the winter period, including routes from London to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast - and Newcastle to Faro.

Affected passengers are to be offered either alternative flights topped up by vouchers or full refunds, the company said.

The cancellations come days after Ryanair announced 315,000 bookings, the equivalent of 50 flights a day, were to be cancelled because management had "messed up" pilot holiday rosters over the summer.

The airline has now removed 25 of its 400 planes after pilots refused to give up a week of their holidays.

However, the carrier again denied it has a pilot shortage, the BBC reports, and insisted it had more than 2,500 pilots on a waiting list and had offered jobs to more than 650 more.

Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, apologised to customers for the second time this month but said the changes were “sensible”.

One immediate impact of the furore is that Ryanair has pulled out of a takeover bid for bankrupt Italian airline Alitalia, “in order to eliminate all management distractions [and] focus on repairing this rostering problem this winter”.

The big question is whether this will affect the company in the long-term. The answer, says the BBC's Simon Jack, has to be no.

O'Leary, who owns 4% of the company, has survived worse publicity than this, and “when this current spat passes, consumers will return to looking at which airline can get them where they are going, at the price they want to pay”.

The Civil Aviation Authority has warned Ryanair that it may take legal action against the carrier for breaching consumer protection laws, “if necessary”.

Ryanair is accused of failing to provide customers with accurate information about their rights following flight cancellations. The carrier also allegedly failed to provide details about its obligation to refund expenses including meals and hotel costs, Sky News reports.

Ryanair says it will meet the CAA and “comply fully with whatever requirements they ask us to”.

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