UK aviation regulator threatens action against Ryanair

By DANICA KIRKA Markets Associated Press

Ryanair pledged to comply with any conditions imposed by Britain's Civil Aviation Authority after it threatened to file legal action against the budget carrier for "persistently misleading passengers" about their rights amid a series of flight cancelations.

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The CAA issued its warning Wednesday, after Ryanair scrapped 18,000 more flights in a second round of cancelations following the airline's admission that it "messed up" the scheduling of pilot vacations. The Dublin-based carrier said 34 routes would be suspended from November to March 2018, affecting some 400,000 customers who had already booked flights.

"We will be meeting with the CAA and will comply fully with whatever requirements they ask us to," Ryanair said in a statement.

The aviation agency said Ryanair failed to tell customers that it would re-route their travel on other airlines if there were no Ryanair flights available in a reasonable amount of time. Ryanair also didn't tell customers that the airline is obliged to refund the cost of expenses such as meals and hotels incurred as a result of flight cancelations, and cover expenses for anyone forced to travel to a different airport for a replacement flight, the CAA said.

Regulators said they told Ryanair about these obligations after the airline announced the first round of flight cancelations on Sept. 18.

The agency said it launched an enforcement action against Ryanair for "persistently misleading passengers with inaccurate information regarding their rights."

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"There are clear laws in place, which are intended to assist passengers in the event of a cancellation, helping minimize both the frustration and inconvenience caused by circumstances completely out of their control," the regulator's chief executive, Andrew Haines, said in a statement. "We have made this crystal clear to Ryanair, who are well aware of their legal obligations, which includes how and when they should reroute passengers, along with the level of information it provides its passengers."

Ryanair said Wednesday that it planned to reduce its fleet and slow growth to manage "exceptional volumes of annual leave," as it adjusts to a new scheduling system. The airline says it has been forced to schedule a full year of pilot vacation time in nine months because it is shifting to a scheduling year that begins in January, rather than April.

Pilot representatives argue that Ryanair has a pilot shortage and has mismanaged the changeover, which was required by new aviation safety rules that the airline has known about for two years.

Whatever the cause, dealing with the fallout remains a challenge for Ryanair.

Britain's newspapers summed up the anger among travelers, with the Daily Mail's front page headline reading "Now Ryanair cancels Xmas," and the Daily Mirror adding "Now Ryanair ruins hols for 400,000 more passengers."