Ryanair cancels flights after ‘messing up’ pilot holidays

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Ryanair cancelled 82 flights on Sunday after admitting it had “messed up” the planning of its pilots’ holidays.

The budget airline said on Saturday that it would cancel 40-50 flights every day for the next six weeks.

Marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said affected customers with bookings up to 20 September had been informed.

“We have messed up in the planning of pilot holidays and we’re working hard to fix that,” he said.

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.

Passenger complaints

The cancellations could affect up to 285,000 passengers, who will be offered alternative flights or refunds.

Mr Jacobs said affected customers would have been sent an email.

“We advise customers to check the email address used to make their booking,” he added.

A page on the Ryanair website details flights cancelled up until 20 September. It says 56 flights are cancelled on Monday, 55 on Tuesday, and 53 on Wednesday.

Ryanair has said that less than 2% of its flights would be cancelled and the move would help it hit its annual punctuality target of 90%.

But passengers have complained about the resulting uncertainty. Gary Cummings was due to fly from Leeds to Bratislava on Friday morning.

On Thursday night he received a text message from Ryanair, saying his flight had been cancelled.

The only alternative flight he was offered was on Monday – when he was originally due to be returning to Leeds.

“We were left in limbo really,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.

UK Aviation Minister Lord Callanan said he expected “all airlines to fulfil their obligations to their customers”.

“In the event of any disruption or cancellation airlines must ensure customers are fully compensated and every effort is made to provide alternative travel arrangements.”

Customers do have rights under the European Passenger Rights legislation.

“The rules say if the airline doesn’t have a suitable alternative flight, you have to be booked on a rival airline,” said Simon Calder, travel editor of the Independent.

He said passengers should also be able to claim compensation for the cancellations.

“It’s a really odd thing in terms of customer care, to say we want to improve the operation by keeping more planes on the ground,” he told the BBC.


RBS accused of fraud and forgery by customers and ex-employee

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Former business clients of the Royal Bank of Scotland are accusing the bank of systematically manipulating documents to cover up wrong doing.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, a former RBS employee has come forward to support allegations of document manipulation within the bank. RBS says it categorically denies document manipulation and forgery. Mark Wright started working for NatWest Bank in 1988 and was still there in 2000 when it was taken over by RBS. In 2005, Mr Wright accused two former RBS colleagues of concocting bogus complaints purportedly from five of his customers. He says the employees were from the bank’s Group Compliance Unit established to deter misconduct and malpractice in RBS. He referred to the unit as the bank’s “police”. Mr Wright’s five customers later submitted statements contradicting the bogus complaints. The two accused compliance staff subsequently left the bank.   Mr Wright told the BBC that the bank failed to properly investigate the complaints or accord him the status of whistle-blower. “I had five individual customers who all came forward to me stating that the wording and conversations with this member of staff from group compliance were not their words, so effectively the telephone transcripts didn’t reflect what the customer was saying.” Mr Wright said as a senior manager he had a duty to report the falsifications. “I told my line manager this because he had been affected by the negative rating that Group Compliance had given me over these fictitious five customer complaints and falsifying the customer care calls so I decided to contact them all and the behaviour was the same with all five.”

‘I was suspicious’

Mr Wright said he learned later from colleagues that such misconduct was not uncommon in the bank’s Compliance Unit. “I discovered through a member of staff from Group Compliance that it would be common practice that they would falsify files if they needed to create a certain picture.” Mr Wright said he became increasingly concerned about the way the bank handled allegations of wrongdoing and had wanted a full external investigation because of the serious nature of his allegations. “I was suspicious of wrong doing from 2005 to 2012,” he said.

Mr Wright claims his standing within the bank suffered enormously as a result of his action. His employment status within RBS was changed to “undesirable” when previously he had been classed as “excellent”. Bonuses were also stopped. In 2013 Mr Wright finally took redundancy after his GP diagnosed him with long term mental health issues. The bank upheld one of his grievances. An RBS spokeswoman said the bank was aware of these concerns being raised previously and that they had been thoroughly investigated and responded to. She denied there had been systematic document tampering at the bank.  Mark Wright lives in the constituency of North Norfolk represented by former government minister, Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb. Mr Lamb said he has written to RBS five times to demand a meeting about Mr Wright’s allegations.

How high did this go?

He said: “My fear is that it appears to be more than a few rotten apples behaving badly. There appears to be an institutional culture here that facilitated this corrupt practice. That’s the allegation. “And the way in which they dealt with a whistle-blower, who ought to actually be respected and treated with the utmost seriousness, instead they pushed him through a very long process, the wrong process.” Mr Lamb said: “Treating it as a grievance not going through the proper whistle-blowing process and allowing that individual to be destroyed rather that treating seriously the allegations that he raised and that for me begs the question. How high did this go? Did it go to the very top of the bank? And why are the current leadership not prepared to examine these really serious allegations thoroughly?”  The BBC has also spoken to former business clients of RBS, who also claim fraud and document tampering. The RGL management group is representing many in a planned court action. At least 300 companies plan to sue the bank. James Hayward, chief executive of RGL, told the BBC that the companies were suing RBS on ten grounds of alleged malfeasance including document tampering. “In most cases the end result of what the bank did to their people was the total destruction of their businesses and people’s lives. “These people were intentionally financially and emotionally destroyed. Their only mistake was to trust the bank that they thought was there to help them succeed.” He said he had also seen evidence of document manipulation by the bank.

“If anybody manipulates documents or falsifies documents or forges documents it can only be for two reasons, and that’s to perpetuate a fraud or to cover up a fraud,” Mr Hayward said. “There’s no other reason for doing it. We have come across it. It’s just another instance of an unbelievably appalling sort of corporate conduct.” RBS says it takes any allegations of misconduct very seriously. It’s aware of specific allegations, which have been investigated thoroughly in the past by the bank and, in many instances, externally through bodies such as the Information Commissioner and the courts. The bank added that it had found no evidence to support these customers’ allegations and categorically denied manipulating or falsifying customer records to suit its purposes.


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