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Ryanair has been threatened with legal action for “persistently misleading” passengers about their rights following thousands of flight cancellations.

The Civil Aviation Authority said it had launched “enforcement action” against Ryanair, the first step towards court action. Ryanair was wrong to claim it did not have to re-route passengers on rival airlines, it said.

The action comes after Ryanair cancelled a further 18,000 flights. The fresh round of flight cancellations will be between November and March and affect the travel plans of a further 400,000 customers.

A total of 34 routes will be suspended this winter, including Stansted to Edinburgh and Glasgow, Gatwick to Belfast and Newcastle to Faro.

Earlier this month, the airline cancelled up to 50 flights a day through to the end of October, also affecting 400,000 passengers.

The regulator said that on both occasions Ryanair had failed to provide customers with “necessary and accurate” information about their rights.

The CAA said information provided on Ryanair’s website failed to make it clear that the airline was obliged to refund all expenses incurred as a result of the flight cancellation.

Those expenses included meals, hotels, as well as transfer costs to re-route passengers on other airlines when there was no suitable alternative, the CAA said.

The aviation authority said it had already written to Ryanair asking it to make a public statement to ensure customers were not misled after the first wave of flight cancellations.

But it said the airline had so far not complied with its request.

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