Ryanair will this winter operate 25 fewer aircraft than the 400 it previously planned to, and has cancelled some 18,000 flights across the season, suspending 34 routes, as it seeks to avoid further disruption arising from lack of available pilots.

The budget carrier says the cancellations in the November-March period will affect "less than 400,000 customers". These have been contacted today with an offer of alternative flights or refunds along with a €40 (€80 return) travel voucher that can be used from October to book a Ryanair flight in the period through March 2018.

This same voucher has also been offered to the 315,000 customers affected by flight cancellations across a six-week period in September-October, as an addition to "reaccommodation/refunds" already received and forthcoming EU261 compensation.

"Slower growth creates lots of spare aircraft and crews across Ryanair's 86 bases this winter," says the airline, which intends to "roster all of the extra pilot leave necessary in October, November and December" to complete a nine-month annual-leave transition period and then start the new calendar year without a backlog of holidays.

From April 2018, Ryanair will operate 435 aircraft rather than 445.

To remove the risk of "roster problems" next year, the airline will require that 40% of the annual pilot leave requirement be taken in the first quarter.

Its forecast for passengers carried in the year ending 31 March 2018 has been reduced by two million to 129 million. The figure for the following year has been cut by four million to 138 million.

The airline expects its full-year profit-after-tax forecast of €1.4-1.45 billion ($1.6-1.7 billion) to remain unchanged. It adds: "Over the next two years, as Ryanair hires more pilots and raises pilot pay, costs will rise slightly, but we don't believe this will impact profitability."

Source: Cirium Dashboard