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Ryanair must take care of customers affected by cancellations

Air passengers are well aware their flights can sometimes be hit by delays that are outside an airline's control.

The Icelandic ash cloud was one admittedly unusual example that grounded thousands of flights but schedules are more likely to be affected by adverse weather or industrial action or a technical issue.

Ryanair has achieved the rare feat of creating its own form of chaos, cancelling up to 50 flights a day for six weeks, mainly, it seems, because of problems around the management of pilots' holiday leave.

Chief executive Michael O'Leary told a press conference on Monday that the airline had `messed up' the allocation of holidays while denying a shortage of pilots was the underlying reason for the cancellations amid reports of staff flocking to rival carriers.

The prime concern of the 400,000 passengers affected is how Ryanair is going to sort out this mess of its own making.

So far, the fare-paying public appears to be deeply unimpressed with stories of people left stranded without information, special occasions ruined, passengers forced to spend large sums to get themselves home and widespread displeasure at how Ryanair has handled this crisis.

Ryanair has insisted that just a fraction of its flights have been cancelled but all travellers were left in an anxious limbo until the airline eventually published a list of affected flights.

The airline has said it will pay compensation to those given less than 14 days notice but it is not clear what the position is of others who have been left out of pocket by this debacle.

It is not acceptable for a major airline to announce large-scale cancellations and not have adequate arrangements in place to deal with queries from concerned passengers.

Lack of information has caused uncertainty and anger and that should have been anticipated by the company.

Having messed up, Ryanair needs to ensure affected passengers receive the best customer service, including swift refunds for expenses incurred through no fault of their own.

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