Budget airline Ryanair cancels 2,000 flights, CEO admits issue was badly handled

Key Points
  • Ryanair to cancel around 2,000 flights across Europe.
  • Chief executive Michael O'Leary told the company's AGM that the issue was badly handled.
  • The budget airline is offering a massive bonus to pilots to come back to work.

decision to cancel around 2,000 flights due to staffing issues was the right operational decision but the issue was badly handled, the airline's chief executive admitted at its annual general meeting on Thursday.

Since Saturday, the airline was forced to cancel thousands of flights between September 16 and the end of October as many of its pilots were taking annual leave, meaning there were not sufficient staff members to be on standby in case of unforeseen issues, according to CEO Michael O'Leary.

To alleviate the problem, pilots have been offered a bonus of 12,000 euros ($14,282) to work an 10 additional days, according to Reuters. Ryanair has also recruited 125 pilots in the past two weeks.

"There won't be more cancellations because of the rostering issues," O'Leary told the meeting, according to Reuters.

However, there are reports that some of the pilots have rejected the bonus. This indicates that there are no quick fixes to solve this issue, warned Chris McCullough, CEO and co-founder at Rotageek.

"Employees can be a company's biggest asset in a crisis – but only if a good work culture has been fostered way before things go wrong. This problem isn't unique to Ryanair, and the airline industry needs to work together to tackle it. That starts with better scheduling and a change in how management work with staff," he told CNBC via email.

"The right solution won't just help management, it will also benefit employees. Smart scheduling can help employees have real input into their own schedules, with the ability to mark their preferences and availability."