ALLOW me to let fly at Ryanair. Like countless others, I watched my phone on Monday night to see if my October flights were among those due to be cancelled. We were assured we’d know by the end of the evening. Midnight arrived and there had been no communication. Nor were our flights on the list posted online. But do I really believe I don’t need to worry?

With a company like Ryanair, if you trust anything it says you might as well tattoo “gullible” on your nose. Even before this latest spectacular scandal, you turned up at the airport for a Ryanair flight more in hope than expectation.

A hiccup was pretty much a guaranteed part of the itinerary: a delay, lost baggage, a bus trip to connect with a different flight. The airline’s recent outlandish behaviour, however, outdoes everything that has come before.

When news first emerged that it was planning summarily to cancel thousands of flights in the next six weeks because it had miscalculated the pilot rota, people were stunned.

How could this be? “We messed up”, it confessed airily, like a child who admits kicking a ball through a window, knowing the worst they can expect is a week or two without pocket money.

Estimates of what this will cost the carrier in compensation are around €20 million (£17.7m). But that is as nothing compared with the long-term and possibly irreparable damage to the airline’s image; and to the wellbeing of those disrupted.

The best that the 400,000 affected passengers can hope for is inconvenience and expense. At worst, it could mean the ruination of their plans. Between these extremes lies a swamp of frustration, fury and stress. The NHS should sue for the additional burden this will put on its services this autumn.

Weddings, conferences, holidays, reunions – the bricks from which life is built – have been deemed utterly unimportant by a company that treats its customers with contempt. It is not the pilot rota error that is to blame but the way in which Ryanair has handled it. A reputable firm, more concerned to keep its reputation than protect its bank balance, would have thrown cash at the problem.

It would have hired additional pilots, organised replacement flights with rival airlines and offered refunds upfront.

It would not have left hordes of anxious customers poring over the small print to establish what they were entitled to and then – if my own experience of trying to get a refund out of Ryanair for a cancelled flight is any guide – struggling with a system designed to put you off lodging a legitimate claim; as, in the end, bloody-minded and resentful though I was, it did.

What any responsible company would not have done was have no staff on hand in airports to explain what was happening or help stranded passengers find alternatives; nobody at the end of a phone line to talk to; and no written guarantee that a flight that was scheduled would take off as planned, unless prevented by acts of God, which do not include mismanagement.

The lack of integrity and conscience Ryanair’s antics represent is jaw-dropping. When you buy a flight, you have entered what should be considered a binding contract. Like anything purchased in advance of delivery, by putting down your money, you have, in theory, secured it.

The binding principle behind this transaction is implicit. Blithely to break that deal, that article of faith, is to threaten the entire foundation on which consumer-seller relations are based. The implications of this precedent are scary.

Yet, contrary to appearances, Ryanair is not entirely stupid. It banks on the fact that, however much people complain, if its prices remain low most of them will return.

What it is also tapping into is a creeping culture in which ordinary folk feel helpless when dealing with big firms. My long-suffering husband has recently been dealing with various telecommunications bodies, where trying to have a problem resolved makes you understand why peace in the Middle East remains a distant prospect.

Systems for handling customers seem expressly devised to put you off pursuing a complaint, querying a bill or asking why something they promised to provide has not been delivered.

Dealing with retail and service behemoths, we are made to feel helpless because that is what we are. Perhaps the most damaging outcome of Ryanair’s PR disaster is that it has peeled back the wafer-thin veneer of courtesy with which it once served us to reveal that it couldn’t give a toss.

We are just counters in a giant slot machine, whose only value is monetary. The brazen lack of concern for the impact these cancellations will have is breathtaking.

There could be no clearer evidence that it views its business as impersonal and soulless, a shuttling service that could as readily transport crates or cattle as people if it could screw more money out of them.

The concept of disgrace is out of fashion, but that is what this debacle is. Ryanair should burn with shame.