Longford Leader's Mattie Fox: Passengers worldwide carrying the can following Ryanair debacle

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Mattie Fox

Longford Leader columnist, Mattie Fox

Ryanair have made rather strange explanations regarding their “total disdain” for passengers, according to Saturday’s Irish Times while they allowed enforced, due, time off to pilots and some other staff.

Ryanair knew this was coming towards them, as the clock ticked ever onwards towards this debacle, for passengers.

The outcome of which has left passengers all over the world carrying the can for Ryanair's petulant game playing.

How can an airline with so many passengers allow a situation to develop which they knew was dependent on the response of pilots; anyone studying the pilots’ deal would have known that Ryanair weren't going to get away with it.

As Ryanair sent out press statements that said they'd made a “mess” of their staff arrangements and erred about the holiday season, their PR machine went into overdrive.

It put this down to a combination of air traffic control delays and strikes, weather disruption and the impact of increased holiday allocations to pilots and cabin crew following a change to its roster in line with Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) regulations.

Ryanair said it now had a “backlog of crew leave” which must be allocated before the end of December, due to the IAA-imposed changes.

Yeah, a good idea to blame the IAA!

These changes in fact are in line with European law and mean it must bring staff holidays, previously running from April to March, in line with the calendar year.

In a letter to pilots on Wednesday, seen by The Irish Times , the airline said the change in holiday patterns had “posed significant challenges”.

Meanwhile, industry sources have claimed Ryanair has a shortage of pilots, while Norwegian airlines recently confirmed 140 of them had joined it this year. In its letter, Ryanair said it had a “surplus of operational pilots in July and August and a healthy overall crewing ratio”.

A statement from Ryanair said the “increased leave at a time of ATC (air traffic control) capacity delays and strikes, has severely reduced our on-time performance over the past two weeks to under 80 per cent.

Officially, Ryanair cited punctuality problems for an unprecedented rolling programme of flight cancellations. At least a quarter of a million passengers, and possibly as many as 378,000 people may be unexpectedly grounded as a result. Some cancellations are expected to be announced just hours beforehand giving passengers little warning.

Does Ryanair care?

In reality, the airline is critically short of pilots and has been for some time, despite a constant roll-out of new routes and bases throughout Europe.

The deal with the IAA was agreed between Ryanair and the body, in mid 2016.

A measure of its manpower difficulties could be gleaned from a recent desperate appeal to pilots to cancel their holidays and resume working in a bid to protect “the integrity of the operation.”

The unusual appeal was issued in a fax to pilots last Wednesday by Michael Hickey, Ryanair’s Chief Operations Officer. He wrote of “an imposed transition on our normal leave years” which has created “short term challenges”.

He was in fact referring to an agreement which the airline reached with the Irish Aviation Authority and the European Air Safety Agency as early as mid-2016 whereby Ryanair finally agreed to fall in line with long established European safety standards whereby the airline pilot operational year starts on January 1st and ends on December 31st.

Hitherto Ryanair insisted its operational year commenced on April 1st.

So the “imposed transition” isn't Ryanair's fault at all, at all.

The chaos ensuing in recent days, which is expected to go on for some time, was at times - according to passengers - being handled by just one person.

So much for customer care.

There's a way to put manners on Ryanair but people might not take it. At the end of the day, you get what you tolerate.

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