The head of the UK’s aviation regulator has told Sky News that he takes a promise by Ryanair to meet its obligations over mass flight cancellations “with a pinch of salt”.
Andrew Haines, the chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said he was “furious” with the no-frills carrier – accusing it of appearing to show “disregard for consumers and for the law”.
The watchdog said the company had a history of compliance only when it reaches the steps of a court of law.
He was speaking just moments after Ryanair released a statement pledging full co-operation with the CAA over the flights debacle.
The regulator had said it was taking enforcement action over Ryanair’s two waves of cancellations, which will affect more than 700,000 passengers over the next six months.
The airline was accused of falsely claiming that it did not have to re-route passengers on other airlines, particularly when there are no other services available.
According to the CAA, Ryanair also stopped short of providing details about its obligations to refund expenses incurred by passengers as a result of cancellations – such as meals, hotels and transfer costs.
The watchdog said that while its enforcement powers could run to fines if warranted, it did not have the ability to strip the carrier of routes as punishment because the company is Ireland-based.
Responding to Ryanair’s promise to “comply fully”, Mr Haines said he could not take the company at its word.
“They told us that last week and yesterday they continued to put out information that wasn’t accurate and was misleading to people so I take that statement with a pinch of salt. Let’s see action not words.”
Sky News has contacted Ryanair for a response.
A pilot rota crisis, which the airline’s chief executive Michael O’Leary has taken personal responsibility for, first saw the airline axe 2,000 flights over a six-week period into October.
It then announced on Wednesday it had suspended 34 routes over the winter season to the end of March – with London Stansted to Edinburgh and Glasgow, Gatwick to Belfast, Newcastle to Faro, and Glasgow to Las Palmas among those shut down.
At the same time it said all passengers would get a £40/€40 travel voucher for flights though the terms and conditions prevent their use on Christmas services and bar infants.
Ryanair said the cancellations would be the last it would have to make to account for its rota blunder – adding that it no longer required pilots to cut short their annual leave by a week.