Michael O’Leary -Ryanair’s Chief Executive Officer
Michael O’Leary CEO Ryanair has apologised for the ‘major boo that led to 2,000 flights for up to 400,000 customers being axed over the next six weeks and said staff are right to call him a ‘clown’. The CEO who was publicly slammed for his ‘overzealous running of the under-fire airline at its Dublin AGM today where he admitted there might be even more cancellations.
Holidaymakers have been left sobbing after being unable to get home, paying sky-high bills for using its premium rate phone line and problems with its refunds service.
The Irish billionaire also faces a revolt by pilots in 33 European airports who have turned down a £12,000 bonus to work until October 31 unless pay and working conditions improve. Ryanair will now recruit 125 new pilots over the next fortnight and will take back one week of its existing pilots’ holidays to prevent any further flight cancellations.
When asked what he thought about staff on a private WhatsApp group referring to him as ‘the Clown’, he said given what had happened with the roster it was an ‘appropriate’ description. Mr O’Leary told the airline’s shareholders that ‘unions are trying to give Ryanair a bloody nose’ but denied any ‘bad relationship’ between bosses and staff and said they ‘don’t want unionisation. He accused some pilots of being ‘precious about themselves’ and ‘full of their own self-importance’, adding: ‘I challenge any pilot to explain how it is a difficult job or how they are overworked’.
Aircrew across Europe could start a slew of new cancellations over alleged poor conditions working for the budget airline – and staff at 33 centres across Europe. Ryanair is planning to take back one week of its pilots’ holidays to prevent any further flight cancellations, the airline’s chief executive has said. Michael O’Leary said pilots due to take a four-week block of holidays in the next few months because a change in annual leave rotas will be told to reduce that to three weeks. He said they will get the other week back in January.
Mr O’Leary again apologised for the disruption, which he said was down to mismanagement of the pilots’ rostering system. He refused to discuss media reports that many pilots had turned down offers of a 12,000 euro (£10,600) bonus and instead demanded improved contracts.
When asked about reports that pilots are threatening industrial action Mr O’Leary responded: ‘If you want and need to ask your staff to give up holidays no work to rule can alter that.’ He added: ‘I don’t even know how there would be industrial action in Ryanair. There isn’t a union.’ He also said there have been no demands for new contracts.
Mr O’Leary continued that the airline has ‘some goodies’ to discuss with pilots but warned: ‘If pilots misbehave that will be the end of the goodies.’ He denied that was a threat to pilots against taking industrial action saying: ‘I don’t think that can be misconstrued as a threat.
Mr O’Leary insisted that Ryanair’s pilots work under ‘good terms and conditions’. There isn’t a bad relationship between Ryanair and our pilots. ‘We asked on Monday for volunteers to work days off … We have had huge co-operation and support from pilots,’ he added.
Referring to pilots’ pay he said ‘maybe we have got it a bit on the low side’ and said it would be looked at. Earlier Mr O’Leary was grilled by shareholders about the shelving of up to 50 flights every day over the next six weeks. We make mistakes. This time we made a major boo-boo,’ said Mr O’Leary.
A very big block of annual leave (for pilots) was over-allocated for September, October and November. Mr O’Leary said that to help ensure no further cancellations after the six-week period, 500 pilots with a four-week block of leave booked for October and 500 in November will have to work one week of that leave. We will tell them, ‘we will make it up to you’. We will be reasonable. We don’t need their agreement.
‘(Pilots) are not going to participate in work to rule. They want to succeed,’ he added. He apologised to the 350,000 people affected by the cancellations. ‘I seriously regret these cancellations and upsetting and worrying 80 million of our customers last week. We are working hard and long hours to address the passengers disrupted last weekend. ‘By the end of this week over 95% of customers will be rebooked or refunded,’ said Mr O’Leary.
Its response to the flight’s cancellation crisis descended into farce yesterday as families complained of having to wait up to nine days for a flight home. In another day of shame for the airline, furious passengers complained of being stranded abroad and left hundreds of pounds out of pocket.
Holidaymakers reported being reduced to tears after being unable to get home, while many complained of being kept on hold on Ryanair’s premium rate helpline, being given incorrect information, or to problems with its refunds service. Those forced to ring the company’s helpline face spiralling charges, with one Mail reporter’s call costing more than £30.
And yesterday the airline admitted that around 140,000 passengers whose flights have been cancelled still have not been booked on another flight. The misery endured by holidaymakers prompted the aviation minister to ramp up the pressure on Ryanair, which has caused further outrage by refusing to rebook passengers on rival airlines.
In some cases, this has left passengers with the choice of waiting for days for another Ryanair flight or shelling out hundreds of pounds in airfares. The budget airline’s chief executive Michael O’Leary has claimed the firm is not obliged to rebook passengers on rival airlines under EU rules, adding that it ‘can not afford to pay the high costs of its competitors’.
But in a strongly worded letter to Mr O’Leary, the Aviation Minister Lord Callanan said he was ‘disappointed about the way Ryanair has dealt with the situation’ and said the airline’s actions have ‘led to disruption and uncertainty for many travellers’.
He added: ‘In the event of any disruption or cancellation, airlines must ensure customers are fully compensated … This includes offering to rebook passengers to flights with other airlines if this is appropriate.’ The intervention comes after the airline industry watchdog the Civil Aviation Authority also raised fears that Ryanair’s ‘express intention was to fail to meet its obligations’ under EU rules.
If Ryanair backs down, its compensation bill – which it has estimated at £17.7million – could soar.
Customers yesterday described the stress of not knowing how to get home and being forced to spend huge sums of money after getting marooned. Stella Scott, 69, was told six hours before her flight and was offered seats to the UK nine days later, leaving her family, including her three-year-old grandson, stranded.
Rhiannon Hawkins, 19, ‘cried herself to sleep’ after she was forced to cut her week’s holiday in France short having spent £25 waiting for an answer on Ryanair’s helpline.
The airline’s 0871 premium rate helpline charges up to 68p per minute from UK mobiles and more if called from abroad. Ryanair takes 13p per minute from these calls – the maximum allowed under Ofcom rules. On top of that phone companies add their own service charge. For example, EE charges 50p a minute.
It took one reporter 48 minutes to reach an operator after initially dialling the number. As a result of the call, made from an EE phone, cost £30.24 – £6.24 in access charge going to Ryanair – and £24 in EE’s service charge.
Responding to criticism, a spokesman for Ryanair said: ‘Our reservations number costs 13p per minute and our other UK number is a low-cost local rate number. ‘We ask customers to bear with us as we do everything we can to respond to their requests.’
The Dublin-based carrier yesterday said it expected to have booked more than 175,000 customers onto other flights and to have processed refunds for more than 20 percent of those affected by the end of the day.
Ryanair has already cut as many as 2,000 flights and will leave up to 400,000 passengers stranded over the next six weeks – and revealed today that just under half have new seats and one in five have been handed refunds.
One senior Ryanair pilot told MailOnline: ‘Pilots are now gathering and arranging meetings around Europe. Serious flight crew unrest exists with the possibility of crew action against the company, including mass sick days and working to rule.
‘Pilot’s are sick of threatening management conduct. Michael O’Leary fabricates his pilots are well treated – if that’s the case why do they all leave so fast – 719 in the past year’ – a figure used by unions.
MailOnline has been inundated with calls and emails from customers who have been left stranded, broke and bereft because of the airline’s cancellation crisis.
Passengers have described the stress of not knowing how to get home and spending huge sums of money after getting marooned by Ryanair. Stella Scott, 69, was sent a text six hours before her Malaga flight and was offered seats to Bristol nine days later, leaving her family including three-year-old grandson marooned.
Lynda Lancaster’s granddaughter Rhiannon Hawkins, 19, ‘cried herself to sleep’ after she was forced to cut her week’s holiday in France short having spent £25 waiting for an answer on Ryanair’s helpline. The airline responded to claims that calls were costing £25 by saying: ‘This £25 call cost claim is untrue. Our UK numbers are not premium rate numbers.
‘Our reservations number costs 13p per minute and our other UK number is a low-cost local rate number. Our chat and email contact channels are completely free’. Mark Adkins was stuck in Spain with his wife, 11-month old baby and 77-year-old disabled father, who was forced to ‘crawl’ onto a train from Valencia to Barcelona to get a new flight.
He told MailOnline: ‘Ryanair have ruined my son’s first holiday and probably my dad’s last one’.’When Boarding the flight at Girona airport, our priority seats at the front were taken away and we were spread out at the back, my dad again struggled to get to his seat.
‘I want everyone to know that Ryanair doesn’t offer any care or consideration for vulnerable passengers like my disabled dad and baby son’. Today consumer group Which claimed that the airline has broken EU laws overcompensation because there is no sign of the word anywhere in an email sent to affected customers.
Instead, there is a link to click if they want to learn more about ‘passenger rights’. Which? spokesman Alex Neill said: ‘Ryanair’s approach to informing affected passengers about compensation falls woefully short. ‘It is legally required to spell out compensation rules when a flight is cancelled and, in our view, have so far failed to do that, leaving passengers hunting around for information.
‘This is another blow for the thousands of passengers who have already had to endure huge inconvenience as a result of this fiasco. ‘The airline must now automatically compensate eligible passengers without them having to go through the additional hassle of making a claim.’