Summer 2022 airline schedule changes in light of strikes

According to many news sources trade, unions representing the cabin crew of Ryanair plan a strike later in June this year.

If trade unions cannot come to an agreement with the board, the strikes will cause major passenger disruptions in the middle of the holiday season, which is observing a record boom in passenger flow after two years of pandemic restrictions.

But few people know that aside from strike disruptions, changing schedules, cancelling, or launching new routes are quite normal for airlines like Ryanair, and they happen all the time.

The below analysis is based on data provided by FareTrack, the leader in airline flight, fare, and schedule data. We have asked the Vice President of FareTrack, Murtuza Dinojwhala, about the potential consequences of disruptions that the strikes might cause.

Dinojwhala told us that the “most unpleasant factor in airline schedule changes is not the changes itself, but it’s their predictability”.

For example, we have compared all July scheduled Ryanair O&D (origin to destination connection) routes between Friday 17 June and Tuesday 21 June. Out of all 4,960 O&D’s, Ryanair made planned changes to the frequency on 5% of O&D routes in July.

Routes like STN CCF and ATH LTN, between the 17th and the 21st of June, increased their number of connections by double. Ryanair on route STN CCF increased the operations from 28 flights per week to 56 per week, while on route ATH LTN from 22 flights to 44. In general, 26 routes have increased their flight frequency by an average of 16%, equal to a total frequency increase of 4 times.

The increase in capacity through a higher frequency is good news for travellers. However, airlines do not have a flexible seat supply, and therefore where capacity is added, it must be taken away from elsewhere. And reduced capacity on routes is something passengers do not like, as this means flights are being cancelled.

For example, between the mentioned 17th June and 21st June, Ryanair has decreased the frequency of July-operated flights per week on 237 O&D connections. The average decrease was not big, 9%, but the overall change on these many routes is about 20 times. The route with the most cancelled number of flights: 7 in a week was STN GDN.

Six routes operated on 6 fewer connections: FUE MAD, JTR ATH, NCL DUB and TRN CTA.

For August flights, another 265 O&D connections had changed their frequency over the few days. This time only 11 routes increased their flight frequency. The rest of the 225 routes decreased their frequency,

The biggest negative change in schedules in August was observed on route NCL DUB where 10 flights were cancelled.

Overall for August, on the 21st of June,  there were 394 missing flights in the schedule than a few days earlier on the 17th of June.

Dinojwhala concludes that if “on a normal week, an airline can decrease its schedule by almost 400 flights, then we can realize how dynamic capacity and network plannings are for the airlines”. And that is the situation without additional disruptions caused by cabin crew strikes.

We asked Dinojwhala if he knew how these statistics would look during the strike? Unfortunately, it is unpredictable, but it surely is subject to his company analysis, so let’s wait for next week to study the new schedule changes of Ryanair.

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