Theresa May hails the free market hours after Ryanair cancels flights of 400,000 people

Joe Vesey-Byrne
Thursday 28 September 2017 13:45
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Picture:(WILL OLIVER/EPA)

Late on Wednesday budget airline Ryanair announced it was cancelling 18,000 flights, affecting 400,000 passengers this winter.

In a statement, Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary said:

We sincerely apologise to those customers who have been affected by last week’s flight cancellations or these sensible schedule changes announced today.

We deeply regret any doubt we caused existing customers last week about Ryanair’s reliability, or the risk of further cancellations.

The Civil Aviation Authority argues that Ryanair employs too few pilots. To combat this problem and prevent delays in future, Ryanair is removing 25 aircraft from the 400 strong fleet.

The budget airline is predominantly used by those seeking to spend less on a holiday.

Passengers affected can choose between refund, or a return flight with a discount of €40 (€80 return).

On Thursday morning, hours after the announcement, the Prime Minister Theresa May hailed the successes of the 'free market'.

In a speech to her old employer, the Bank of England, the Prime Minister made a speech to commemorate 20 years since Gordon Brown gave Britain's central bank the independence to set interest rates and set monetary policy. (Us neither).

In her speech, May said

A free market economy, operating under the right rules and regulations, is the greatest agent of collective human progress ever created.

While she acknowledged that a free market has some casualties, she argued the benefits to all people outweighed the negatives.

The impact those sacrifices have had on ordinary working people has led some to lose faith in free market capitalism.

For instance, a 'free market' can push prices down and make air travel more affordable.

It also means companies can collapse, and customers are forced to bare the brunt of it.

This cost can be a higher price for customers when the product is a service such as travel. Cancelled flights do not just cost the price of the ticket, but also delays their ability to return to work and earn a wage. It can also force them to pay for accommodation and living costs for longer than they had budgeted.

Even if an airline such as Ryanair is offering compensation, the hurt the up front costs do to a holiday customers' cash flow can be acute.

Mrs. May also discussed Britain's future relationship with the European Union.

And whether it is on goods or on services – including the excellent financial services for which the UK has a global reputation – creating needless new barriers to trade between the EU and its biggest market would benefit no one.

Needless new barriers like the kind created by leaving the economic bloc? Just a thought.

The cost of flights to the EU is likely to increase once Britain leaves, and how our respective airspaces will interact is part of the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

In fact in March, officials of none other than Ryanair told The Independent that the government appeared to be under prepared for this.

Their marketing director Kenny Jacobs explained:

It's become worrying that the UK Government seems to have no plan B to maintain Britain's liberalised air links with Europe. 

Ryanair, like all airlines, plans its flights 12 months in advance, so there are just 12 months to go until we finalise our summer 2019 schedule, which could see deep cuts to our flights both to, from and within the UK from March 2019 onwards.

In the same article, Willie Walsh, the chief executive of IAG (which owns Aer Lingus, British Airways, and Spanish airline Iberia) said:

I fear Europe will see this as an opportunity to damage the UK.

The idea we're just going to go in and say 'here's what we want, now give it to us,' is naive.

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