Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: What are Ryanair's obligations for the consequences of our flight delay due to the French air-traffic controllers' strike?
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Wednesday 17 July 2013
Q We were recently delayed on a return flight from Lanzarote to Bournemouth with Ryanair due to the French air-traffic controllers' strike. We were unable to secure an alternative flight to Bournemouth and agreed to return to Gatwick via Dublin. Our car was at Bournemouth, we and our luggage were at Gatwick. A taxi (£75) took us to our home near Basingstoke and we picked up our car the next day (no claim made for this). Ryanair refuse to pay this taxi fare. Should they not refund this as they could not get us to our original destination? They also advise no compensation is payable under EU Regulations but our return was scheduled during the strike, yet they boarded us and kept us on the plane for over an hour before saying we would be delayed.
A EU261, the regulations about passengers' rights, can be fairly neatly divided into two parts: the airlines' responsibilities whatever the cause, and their liabilities when a delay or cancellation is their fault. Financial compensation is payable in the latter case.
But since the strike by French air-traffic controllers was way beyond their control, they have only a duty of care: to look after passengers with meals and hotels as necessary until they can get them to their final destination.
Re-routing to Gatwick via Dublin was a shrewd move for both the airline and you, since it got you back to southern England in the quickest possible time. But by electing to return to your home, rather than Bournemouth airport, you absolved Ryanair of responsibility. The airline could argue that it would have met transport costs to the airport (possibly by bus or train rather than taxi), but you decided to take another option.
Given the strike's massive disruption and cost to airlines, I am not surprised by Ryanair's response. All I can suggest you do is put it down to experience, and note the legal aspect for the next such occasion.
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