Ryanair will cancel up to 40-50 flights daily for the next six weeks as it seeks to improve its system-wide punctuality.
The low-cost carrier was prompted to take the drastic step after seeing less than 80 per cent of its planes arrive on time in the first two weeks of September.
Ryanair blames a combination of air traffic control delays, weather disruptions, and the impact of increased holiday allocations to pilots and cabin crew.
The airline is currently moving to allocate annual leave during a nine month transition period (April-December 2017) to move the airline’s holiday year (currently April-March) to a calendar year (January-December) from January 2018 onwards.
Ryanair has operated at record schedule and traffic levels during the peak summer months of July (12.6 million guests) and August (12.7 million guests) but has a backlog of crew leave which must be allocated before December 31st in order to switch to a calendar leave year (as required by the IAA) from January onwards.
These tighter crewing numbers and the impact of air traffic control restrictions in the UK, Germany and Spain, as well as French air traffic control strikes and adverse weather (thunderstorms) have given rise to significant delays in recent weeks.
Ryanair spokesman Robin Kiely said: “We have operated a record schedule (and traffic numbers) during the peak summer months of July and August but must now allocate annual leave to pilots and cabin crew in September and October (while still running the bulk of our summer schedule).
“By cancelling less than two per cent of our flying programme over the next six weeks, (until our winter schedule starts in early November) we can improve the operational resilience of our schedules and restore punctuality to our annualised target of 90 per cent.”
By reducing its scheduled flying programme over the next six weeks by less than two per cent (of its over 2,500 daily flights), the airline will create additional standby aircraft which will help restore on-time performance to its 90 per cent average.