Ryanair loses Icelandic volcano costs legal battle

 

Ryanair today lost the latest round in its legal battle to avoid paying for hotels, meals and drinks for passengers disrupted by delayed flights during the Icelandic volcano eruption in 2010.

EU rules oblige airlines to provide passenger care - but not compensation - when flights are cancelled by "extraordinary circumstances" beyond their control.

But Ryanair argues that the closure of airspace following the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano was so extraordinary that the rules should not apply.

Today, in a legal "opinion", an Advocate General of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg declared: "In everyday language, the term 'extraordinary circumstances' refers to all circumstances over which the air carrier has no control: an event which is not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned and is beyond the actual control of that carrier on account of its nature or origin.

"In the view of the Advocate General, all events which meet that description are bracketed together under a single notion, leaving no room for a separate category of 'particularly extraordinary' events which would fully release the air carrier from its obligations."

The "opinion" will now be considered by the full court which will deliver a final verdict later this year. The view of the Advocate General is followed in about 80% of cases.

The legal battle began in the Dublin Metropolitan District Court, which is hearing a dispute between Ryanair and passenger Denise McDonagh, whose flight from Faro to Dublin was cancelled by the volcanic ash cloud which closed most northern European airspace between April 15 and 23 2010.

In his legal "opinion" today, Advocate General Yves Bot said Ms McDonagh's scheduled April 17 flight was one of Ryanair's cancelled services, which did not resume until April 22. Ms McDonagh was finally able to return to Ireland on April 24.

The Advocate General said: "According to Ms McDonagh, Ryanair did not provide her with the necessary assistance and it is required to pay her around 1,130 euro (£940) by way of compensation or damages to cover the costs which she incurred for meals, refreshments, accommodation and transport."

The Dublin court had asked the Luxembourg court whether the closure of airspace owing to the eruption of a volcano is covered by the notion of "extraordinary circumstances" in the EU rules, obliging airlines to provide passenger care, or whether it falls "within a category of events above and beyond extraordinary circumstances, possibly releasing the carrier from that obligation".

The Advocate General said the notion of "extraordinary circumstances" was not defined in EU law, and its meaning had to be decided "in accordance with its usual meaning in everyday language".

He said his assessment - that there is no higher category than "extraordinary" - was borne out by the intention of the rules to ensure a high level of passenger protection and by the context, "which relates to the particular vulnerability of passengers who find themselves stranded at an airport on account of extraordinary circumstances".

"Extraordinary circumstances" beyond the control of airlines did remove the obligation to pay passengers compensation for cancelled flights, but the requirement to provide care remained - without a cash or time limit.

"The provision of care is particularly important in the case of extraordinary circumstances which persist over a long time," said the Advocate General.

"It is precisely in situations where the waiting period occasioned by the cancellation of a flight is particularly lengthy that it is necessary to ensure that an air passenger whose flight has been cancelled can have access to essential goods and services throughout that period.

"A limitation of the obligation to provide care would in some measure deprive the EU legislation of its effectiveness, since after a few days the air passengers concerned would be abandoned to their fate."

He summed up: "To meet the immediate needs of such passengers, the air carrier must provide, free of charge, meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time and, where necessary, hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the place of accommodation, and must place at their disposal means of communicating with third parties.

"The air carrier is required to meet that obligation even where the cancellation of the flight has been caused by extraordinary circumstances, that is to say, circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken."

PA

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
VIDEO
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Telesales & Sales Support Apprentice

£221.25 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a well established Inter...

Client Relationship Manager - SQL, Python

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Client Relationship Manager - SQL...

**Financial Services Tax**

£35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Take your chance to join the...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit