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Ryanair adds fewest customers since March after lost flights

[LONDON] Ryanair Holdings added the fewest number of passengers in six months in September as the first of more than 20,000 flight cancellations prompted by a pilot shortage began to weigh on growth.

The customer count rose by one million to 11.8 million, Ryanair said Tuesday, the smallest increment since the carrier added 900,000 passengers in March.

The 9.2 per cent advance is down from a near 14 per cent jump last September, and compares with gains of at least 1.2 million people over the prior five months.

Europe's biggest discount airline said on Sept 15 that it would scrap 2,100 flights through the end of October as it battled with a rostering "mess up", before cancelling another 18,000 stretching into the start of next summer.

The first weekend of disruption saw about 80 flights lost each day, with around 50 dropped daily for the rest of the month.

Ryanair's September load factor, a measure of how full its planes are, rose 2 percentage points to 97 per cent as it re-accommodated passengers on alternative flights, according to a statement.

The Dublin-based company has now refunded or re-accommodated 98 per cent of affected travelers booked for flights in September and October, chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said in the release, adding: "We again sincerely apologize to our customers for these deeply regretted cancellations."

Ryanair said on Sept 27 that it would fall 2 million passengers short of its 2017 target of flying 131 million people. It cut next year's forecast by 4 million to 138 million.

Shares of Ryanair traded 0.4 per cent higher at 16.96 euros as of 11.10am in Dublin.

The stock is now priced only one per cent lower than it was before news of the staffing crisis broke, after gaining 3.5 per cent Monday when low-cost UK rival Monarch Airlines went into administration.


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