Ryanair announced suddenly on Friday that it would have to cancel up to 50 flights per day between September 21 and October 31 after it “messed up” the allocation of annual leave to pilots over the next six weeks.
The low-cost carrier said it had concentrated cancellations on its biggest airport bases around Europe, including Stansted and Dublin, as well as on routes that operate “multiple” times per day. The cancellations will affect around 400,000 passengers.
Alan Bowen, legal advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, said that agents who had used Ryanair flights as part of an Atol-protected package or a Flight-Plus booking could be affected.
“In a Flight-Plus booking, both the flight and the accommodation have to be refunded,” he said. “[Customers] should get a refund from Ryanair for the flight but what about the accommodation if a suitable alternative flight can’t be found? Most agents use a bed bank but they may not give refunds.
“This could affect a lot of agents, particularly in areas around airports like Stansted where there have been the biggest number of cancellations.”
Bowen urged agents to check their insurance policies to see if they had cover for this kind of disruption.
Abta advised: “Agents who may have used Ryanair for Flight-Plus bookings should advise customers whose flights have been cancelled and inform them of their refund or rebooking options with Ryanair, as well as any impact this may have on any accommodation they will have booked as part of the Flight-Plus arrangement.”
John Sullivan, head of commercial at The Advantage Travel Partnership, said that its members had not been affected on a “massive scale” so far, although he admitted it was “early days”.
“Where the accommodation no longer ties in with the flights, we have been working with accommodation suppliers to find the best alternative,” he added. “So far everybody has been working together. The early indications are good but that could change.”
The Travel Network Group has also been helping members affected by the cancellations.
Lisa Henning, group membership services director, said: “We have now completed an exercise establishing the status for all of our Honeycomb [booking platform] Ryanair bookings and are pleased that not many of them are affected.”
Ryanair said it was contacting all affected customers to offer alternative flights or full refunds. Customers whose flights are cancelled within 14 days of departure are also entitled to compensation under European Union regulation EU261.