Ryanair has released a list of flights set to be cancelled until the end of October, after facing backlash over the announcement that it owed holiday to staff.

The airline claims less than two per cent of customers will be affected by the cancellations. It says it has tried to allocate axed flights to bigger transport hubs and on routes with multiple daily services so that, the airline “can offer these disrupted customers the maximum number of alternate flights and routes in order to minimise inconvenience to them.”

All customers affected until the end of October will be emailed with an offer of alternative flights or full refunds, along with details of their compensation entitlement under EU law.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said:

“While over 98 per cent of customers will not be affected by these cancellations over the next six weeks, we apologise unreservedly to those customers whose travel will be disrupted, and assure them that we have done our utmost to try to ensure that we can re-accommodate most of them on alternative flights on the same or next day.”

O’Leary also dismissed rumours that pilots are leaving the company to join rival Norwegian. “Ryanair is not short of pilots – we were able to fully crew our peak summer schedule in June, July and August – but we have messed up the allocation of annual leave to pilots in September and October because we are trying to allocate a full year’s leave into a nine-month period from April to December. The issue will not recur in 2018 as Ryanair goes back onto a 12-month calendar leave year from January 1 to December 31.

“This is a mess of our own making. I apologise sincerely to all our customers for any worry or concern this has caused them over the past weekend. We have only taken this decision to cancel this small proportion of our 2,500 daily flights so that we can provide extra standby cover and protect the punctuality of the 98 per cent of flights that will be unaffected by these cancellations.”

A full list of cancelled flights can be seen here.

Southend airport has turned the tables on Ryanair by offering affected customers a free return flight to and from Dublin, “as a simple gift and opportunity to try” the terminal.

The airport will give away 100 return tickets on a first-come-first-served basis. It will also extend the offer to the new Manchester and Glasgow routes, which commence on October 29.

Glyn Jones, CEO of Southend owner Stobart Aviation, said:

“The free return tickets are a simple gesture, an invitation to try us instead of the airports hit by the Ryanair cancellations.”

Molly Dyson