Belfast Telegraph

Ryanair: Passengers vent fury as airline cuts more routes

By John Mulgrew

Hundreds of Ryanair customers in Northern Ireland have been left furious and potentially out-of-pocket after the low-cost airline revealed it's cancelling and suspending flights to London.

Michael O'Leary's budget airline is slashing flights from November 17 to March 18, from Belfast International to London Gatwick.

It's the first time the fallout from the airline's chaotic mismanagement of pilot leave hits its Northern Ireland operations. Belfast man Nick Donaldson (31), who now lives in Australia, had his return connecting flight from Belfast to London cancelled by Ryanair.

"I fly into Belfast on October 21, and now the return flight has been cancelled," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I've to get a flight on November 6, to Hong Kong to return to Australia. I'm still assessing my position.

"It's come as a bit of a shock and there seems to be a lack of appetite to help with any resolution.

"The live (online) help, I can't get through to, and I was offered either a refund or to change my flight with the next available flight being next year.

"The lack of notice is frustrating."

Customers who have already booked to fly on the dates have been offered a refund or the chance to rebook, along with a £40 compensation for each flight.

But it now means customers will have to book flights with other airlines on their planned date of travel, which is likely to mean increased flight costs.

Another Ryanair customer said he won't fly with the carrier again, after it pulled a January flight for his brother's visit to London.

"I can't cancel the hotel for those dates without losing all my money," he said.

"So, I'm having to source alternative flights. I also had tickets to an event for those dates too and those tickets are non-refundable."

Meanwhile, Kelly Cunningham said her sister and mum have also had flights cancelled, and they will now have to seek flights with alternative airlines.

Ryanair is grounding 25 aircraft, which is hitting 34 routes across Europe. It says that it will "slow its growth this winter... by flying 25 less aircraft (of its 400 fleet) from November, and 10 fewer aircraft (of 445) from April 2018".

The airline currently has around 13 routes from Belfast International Airport, with Gatwick being its regular daily service. In total, Ryanair is cancelling an extra 18,000 flights in a move that will hit 400,000 customers. The firm has been forced into the cancellations after miscalculating pilot leave.

Taking more flights out of service means that Ryanair will be able to "roster all of the extra pilot leave necessary" in October, November and December, the budget airline said.

As a result, 34 routes are suspended for the winter season from November to March 2018. The routes include London Stansted to Edinburgh and Glasgow, Gatwick to Belfast, Newcastle to Faro, and Glasgow to Las Palmas.

Ryanair said the latest step will "eliminate all risk of further flight cancellations" and remove the risk of similar problems recurring next year.

DUP MP for South Antrim Paul Givan said the cancellations are a "bitter blow for those who use this route, many of whom use it on a weekly basis for work purposes".

He said: "As people also think of booking flights for the homeward journey at Christmas time, it will be acutely felt by those wanting to get back to Northern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.