Ryanair puts a number on passengers affected by cancellations

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Customers have been left angry and in tears as they have been forced to call an expensive premium hotline, jammed with other distressed callers, in order to ask for refunds and new flights home.Some have been unable to return to work after their trips, and cost an unaffordable amount in unexpected hotel bills.

Ryanair is facing an estimated bill of £17 million in compensation payouts to customers as a result of mass cancellations over the next six weeks.

Ryanair has pleaded with customers affected by the cancellation of 2,100 of its flights to "bear with us" as it gets to grips with refunds and rescheduling.

Ryanair says it has reached out to all affected customers via email.You can check flight statuses here on their website as well apply for a refund or alternate flight.

Ryanair also said it had taken on extra staff to deal with the backlog.

By then, over 63,000 flight refunds will have been processed, it adds.

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The airline said it was cancelling flights at airports where it ran the busiest schedules so it would be easier to place passengers on alternative flights.

Ryanair has cancelled 702 flights to or from Italian airports in the period up to the end of October, according to a list of ditched services on the Irish low-priced airlines website. This leaves the airline with a shortage of available pilots over the next six weeks. It is legally required to spell out compensation rules when a flight is cancelled and, in our view, have so far failed to do that, leaving passengers hunting around for information.

More than 120 pilots at the budget airline attended meetings in Dublin this week where a ballot for industrial action was discussed, and colleagues are set to meet across Europe today and tomorrow to consider collective action.

Michael O'Leary, the airline's chief executive, told a press conference on Tuesday that it was clear the debacle had a "large reputational impact" and apologised.

He said: "This is clearly a mess up, I take responsibility for the mess up and I have to clear it up".

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