Budget airline Ryanair has announced that it is having to cancel hundreds of flights in order to accommodate annual leave for its pilots.
On Monday, Ryanair’s marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said “We have messed up in the planning of pilot holidays and we’re working hard to fix that.”
He added that most of the cancellations are due to a backlog of staff leave which has seen large numbers of the airline’s staff book holidays towards the end of the year.
The airline is changing its holiday year, which currently runs from April to March, to run from January to December instead. Rynanair said the shift meant it had to allocate annual leave to pilots in September and October.
Liam Grime, employment law consultant for the ELAS Group, says the change in holiday year gives the pilots a nine month window from April to December in which to get their annual leave entitlement booked and used. “We do not know if the mix-up here was as a result of pilots not being aware of the change or if there was some delay in approving/scheduling the holiday requests but, whatever the reason, there is a backlog of leave that needs to be taken.”
“No matter what size business you run, there will always be a problem if too many employees need to take leave at the same time and it takes careful planning throughout the year to ensure that there is no end of year crunch with employees needing to use or lose their annual leave.”
Ryanair’s scheduling issues show the importance for all companies to establish a thorough holiday booking procedure so that whoever is managing it is able to deal with holiday requests, identify where there may be too many people requesting time off at the same time and follow a strict first come-first serve policy when accepting or rejecting holiday requests.
“Most employers tend to allow no more than two, maybe three, employees to take time off at any one time and it is perfectly acceptable to have this kind of restriction. It is also within the power of employers to dictate when employees are permitted to take their annual leave to ensure that sufficient cover is available for the amount of work that they have on,” Grime adds.
“In this case, had sufficient and proper planning taken place then Ryanair would have been able to assess the potential annual leave crunch and come up with some kind of rota for who is on holiday and when, in order to ensure that pilots are still able to use their annual leave entitlement in the allocated time without having to cancel flights. If it was determined ahead of time that their business demands and flight schedule would not permit all of the annual leave to be taken within this timescale then some pilots could have been allowed to carry over any outstanding entitlement to the next holiday year.” This would have avoided the current situation they find themselves in of having to let pilots take their annual leave over a two month period, and thus prevented the cancellation of so many flights and the public relations fallout that has come from this.
“All businesses should have plans in case to ensure that employees are able to take the full leave that they are entitled to without it having an adverse effect on the business. If there are situations where leave needs to be carried over, then companies should let employees know as soon as possible in order to avoid ill will.”
Ryanair cancelled 82 flights on Sunday and will cancel between 40 and 50 flights every day for the next six weeks because of this scheduling mess up. Adrian Lewis, director of Activ Absence notes that this mess up could cost Ryanair dearly. “The flight cancellations alone could affect up to 285,000 passengers, who will be offered alternative flights or refunds – this situation is damaging to existing and future customers, employees and of course, the company’s brand.”
“With modern cloud technology today available cost effectively, there is no reason at all that any company should have problems managing annual leave. Companies that use online holiday planning software can encourage staff to request and input their holidays all year round and these details can be accessed and seen by everyone.”
Employers can also use this software to set triggers so if an employee has only taken 50 per cent of their annual leave by a certain date, they can highlight and address this immediately. They can also set policies and rules to avoid employees taking time off at the same time. “For any business to run smoothly, as this situation with Ryanair shows, holiday planning is absolutely critical.”