Ryanair made a mistake and had to cancel 40 to 50 flights a day for the next six weeks, for a total of 2,100 flights. The legendary no-frills airline has always treated passengers like freight, and with its non-apology, has proven that accounting for customers’ feelings is a luxury that doesn’t come on Ryanair.
This past weekend, Ryanair cancelled 315,000 passenger reservations. The reason: the company miscalculated pilot vacation rules and won’t have enough pilots to fly all the routes it usually flies. Management describes the cancellations as minor, affecting no more than 2% of flights. Here’s the statement from the company:
Ryanair, today announced that it would cancel 40-50 flights daily for the next six weeks, to the end of October, to improve its system-wide punctuality which has fallen below 80 per cent in the first two weeks of September.
This has happened through a combination of ATC [Air Traffic Control] capacity delays and strikes, weather disruptions and the impact of increased holiday allocations to pilots and cabin crew as the airline moves to allocate annual leave during a 9 month transition period (April to December 2017) to move the airline’s holiday year (currently April to March) to a calendar year (Jan to Dec) from 1st January 2018 onwards.
Ryanair apologises sincerely for the inconvenience caused to customers by these cancellations.
Customers will be contacted directly about this small number of cancellations and offered alternative flights or full refunds.
This is a no-frills apology. The statement “This has happened . . . ” makes it sound like the airline is the victim here. The company’s CEO admitted to “messing up,” but apparently one sentence about a sincere apology is all you get as a victim of a Ryanair mistake.
The instructions on Ryanair.com are clear
These statements from management are not anywhere on Ryanair.com, the company’s site. Visit there, and all you’ll find is this:
Up to 50 flights per day (less than 2% of flights) have been cancelled for the next six weeks.
Your flight is operating as usual unless you receive an email.
List of all cancelled flights:
[flights listed by date]
What are my options?
If your flight is cancelled we offer you two options to choose from:
1. Apply for a refund
If you wish to cancel your reservation and claim a full refund of the unused flight(s) click on the link below and enter your booking details.
Refunds will be processed within 7 working days back to the form of payment used for the original booking.
2. Change your Cancelled Flight (for free)
The easiest way to change your cancelled flight for free (subject to seat availability) is by retrieving your booking online:
If you require rerouting options, departing / arriving from another airport served by Ryanair or changing an unaffected return flight, please contact one of our advisors using our Free Online Chat or calling one of our customer service Contacts Numbers
We understand that flight cancellations may cause distress and we will accommodate your option of choice wherever possible, while complying with EU Regulation 261/2004.
There’s also an FAQ page that is similarly direct.
Surprisingly, these messages obey all my rules for writing without bullshit. They are short, clear, direct, and lack jargon and weasel words. There’s only one passive voice sentence (“Refunds will be processed . . . “). This is a no-bullshit page about what to do.
Companies must balance between empathy and directness
These statements by Ryanair are still terrible, even if they’re no bullshit. Cancelling 2,100 flights due to an admitted error by management and then offering nothing more than a sentence of “sincere apology” and “we understand that flight cancellations may cause distress” is heartless. (It’s also consistent with Ryanair’s reputation, where the price, not the customer, comes first.)
On the other hand, Ryanair deserves credit for the simplicity and clarity of its instructions on what to do. At least if you got screwed, there’s no confusion on what to do next.
I’m not recommending that other companies that have to apologize should be this heartless. If you’ve wronged somebody, especially due to your own mistakes, own up to it and give us a little more empathy. It’s incumbent upon the company executives not to minimize the breadth of the damage (“less than 2% of flights”).
But once you’ve gotten that out of the way, by all means, make it as easy as Ryanair does for the customer to do whatever they must to get out from under the damage you caused.