BUDGET airline Ryanair is set to cancel 40 to 50 flights per day over the next six weeks.

Europe’s largest airline said the move is designed to ‘improve its system-wide punctuality’.

It went on to blame ‘a combination of ATC capacity delays and strikes, weather disruptions and the impact of increased holiday allocations to pilots and cabin crew’.

It comes as the airline is switching its April-March annual leave calendar to the January-December model.

This means flight crews are now seeking to take their full allocation of holiday, creating a staff shortage.

In a statement, Ryanair said it has a backlog of crew leave.

It said: “These tighter crewing numbers and the impact of ATC capacity restrictions in the UK, Germany and Spain, as well as French ATC strikes and adverse weather (thunderstorms) have given rise to significant delays in recent weeks.”

It comes after its number of ‘on time’ flights decreased by 10% over the last two weeks, which it claimed was unacceptable.

One woman, Tracy Virr, told The Independent how her flight back from Bordeaux to Stansted  was cancelled last minute.

She rebooked for two days later, but that flight was also cancelled.

She told The Independent: “What is extraordinary is that we have just been left with no help or advice from Ryanair.

“The online help has been of no practical help at all and we now feel that we cannot even trust that we will get home.”

Up to 9,000 passengers a day face having their travel plans wrecked.

Ryanair said: “Customers will be contacted directly about this small number of cancellations and offered alternative flights or full refunds.”

If Ryanair does not have a suitable alternative flight,  passengers are entitled to be booked on rival airlines. They must also be provided with meals and accommodation until they reach their destination.

Depending on the amount of notice given, they could also qualify for compensation of up to €400.

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