Q&A: What you can do and claim if your flight is cancelled suddenly

Joyce Fegan answers the key questions for consumers after the Ryanair flight cancellations.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary says the cancellation is 'a mess'.

Why is Ryanair in the news?

Last Friday Ryanair announced it would cancel up to 50 flights per day for the next six weeks. The cancellations began on Saturday.

How do you know if your flight has been cancelled?

The airline said unless you receive an email, your flight is operating as usual. Passengers can check on Ryanair’s website to see the list of cancelled flights.

Why is this happening?

Ryanair cited multiple reasons for these last-minute cancellations. It said it wanted to “improve its system-wide punctuality which has fallen below 80%,” air-traffic control capacity and delays, as well as strikes and weather disruptions, were also listed as reasons.

Is there one main reason?

A significant number of aviation experts referred to pilots’ annual leave as being the problem as well as a shortage of pilots.

Ryanair, in its statement, said “the impact of increased holiday allocations to pilots and cabin crew as the airline moves to allocate annual leave during a nine-month transition period (April to December 2017),” was also behind the cancellations.

What happens if your flight is cancelled?

According to the Commission for Aviation Regulation, if Ryanair cancels a flight, it must offer you the choice of an alternative flight at the earliest opportunity or at a later date of your choice subject to the availability of seats or a full refund of the ticket.

What if no other flight is available?

The commission said that Ryanair is entitled to offer a passenger comparable transport to the final destination if no alternative flight with the carrier is available. When an area or city is served by several airports, such as Paris, Ryanair may offer a flight to an alternative airport to that originally booked. The airline is then obliged to bear the cost of transferring you to the airport you had booked or to another close-by destination agreed with you.

If you are abroad and your return flight to Ireland is cancelled, what should you do?

The regulator said: “Go to the airport. Ryanair have a duty to give you care and assistance and that means, as required, reasonable food and refreshments given the length of time you’re going to be there waiting for your return flight, or hotel accommodation until they can get you out of there and transport to and from the hotel. It is very, very important that the passenger stays with a Ryanair flight. If they choose to choose another airline or go home a different way they won’t get the same level of duty of care and compensation.”

What compensation are passengers entitled to?

Compensation in the event of cancellation depends on several factors. Ryanair may have to compensate you if it has given you between seven days and two weeks’ notice of the cancellation but your flight departs more than two hours before your original departure time and four hours of the original arrival time (or half these times where the notice period is under seven days.) Compensation depends on the distance of the flight. If the distance is 1,500km or less the amount payable is €250; 1,500km to 3,500km and all EU flights over 3,500km, the amount payable is €400. It is very important to note compensation is distinct from and separate to the notion of reimbursement of expenses and/ or the refund of the cost of an unused flight ticket.

How do make a claim?

If you claim for expenses or compensation from Ryanair, you must contact it directly. This is covered in Article 15 of its terms and conditions. Ryanair says it aims to deal with claims in four to six weeks.

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