As many as 400,000 passengers across the EU could have flights with Ryanair cancelled between now and the end of October.
The airline said on Saturday it would cancel 40-50 flights every day for the next six weeks, after it “messed up” the planning of pilot holidays.
All of Ryanair’s flights are short or medium-haul, and the vast majority are to destinations within the EU, meaning that passengers are entitled to some very specific rules on compensation.
On its website the airline says: “We understand that flight cancellations may cause distress, and we will accommodate your option of choice wherever possible, while complying with EU Regulation 261/2004.”
What are my options if my flight is cancelled?
You can apply for a refund. Even if it is only the outbound portion of the flight that is cancelled, you can still get a refund for the return leg, assuming you do not want to use it.
Or you can chose an alternative flight – perhaps on an earlier or later date. In most cases Ryanair will offer you another flight with them.
However, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says that if an alternative airline is flying there “significantly sooner”, then you have the right to be booked onto a different airline.
Ryanair is offering alternative flights/refunds via this page. However, chief executive Michael O’Leary has said that Ryanair would not book passengers onto flights with rival carriers.
“We will not pay for flights on other airlines, no. It is not part of the EU261 entitlement,” he said, referring to European passenger rights legislation covering cancelled flights.
Can I claim compensation for the inconvenience?
You can claim compensation – but it is based strictly on the time of your actual arrival compared to when you originally expected to arrive.
It also depends when Ryanair told you about the cancellation. If it gave you more than 14 days’ notice, it does not have to pay any compensation at all.
However, so far all passengers have been given less than a week’s warning.
If Ryanair books you onto a flight with another airline, you are still entitled to compensation.
What if I have received less than 14 days’ notice?
If your re-booked flight arrives more than four hours later than the flight you were originally booked on, you can claim 250 euros – around £220.
For flights over 1,500km, known as medium-haul, that goes up to 400 euros – around £350.
However, if the new flight re-routes you via another destination, and you end up with a longer flight as a result – you can still claim compensation, but at a lower rate.
If you are flying on a short-haul flight, and the re-routed flight is at least two hours late, you can claim 125 euros – around £110.
If a medium-haul re-routed flight is at least three hours late, you can claim 200 euros – around £176 – depending on the time of take-off.
What if I have received less than seven days’ notice?
If you receive less than a week’s notice of the cancellation, the criteria for compensation are tighter.
In this case, your short-haul flight only needs to arrive more than two hours after your original scheduled arrival time for you to claim 250 euros.
If flying more than 1,500km, and the flight is at least three hours late, you can claim 400 euros.
If a new short-haul flight is re-routed, taking off more than one hour before your original flight, but arriving two hours after it, you can claim 125 euros.
A re-routed medium-haul flight needs to arrive at least three hours late for compensation to be paid. In such a case passengers would get 200 euros.
Should I get a refund and arrange my own alternative flight?
You are free to do this, but you will then lose out on any right to compensation. If you cancel the flight completely, remember that you may not even get a refund.
I don’t know whether my flight has been cancelled: What should I do?
So far Ryanair has only published the details of a few of the flights that have been cancelled. However, it has promised the details of all the cancelled flights will be on its website over the next 24 hours.
This will leave a lot of people not knowing whether their trip will go ahead. But if you decide to cancel or change your flight without knowing whether it will be cancelled officially, you have no special rights under the European Regulations.
The CAA advises passengers to go through the airline for that reason.
Am I entitled to additional help?
If you find yourself stranded at the airport, you might also be entitled to an extra payment to cover short-term costs.
For example, if you have had to wait an extra day to take the new flight you should be given accommodation, food, drink and access to communications – such as the cost of a couple of telephone calls.