Ryanair should compensate passengers hit by strikes, says watchdog

It follows a summer of strikes for Europe's largest budget airline

Cathy Adams
Wednesday 05 December 2018 10:49 GMT
Thousands of people were affected by Ryanair delays and cancellations this summer
Thousands of people were affected by Ryanair delays and cancellations this summer (AP)

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Ryanair will face ‘enforcement action’ from the aviation watchdog over its refusal to pay compensation to passengers disrupted by strike action.

Thousands of passenger journeys were disrupted this summer when their flights were cancelled following walkouts by Ryanair pilots and cabin crew across Europe.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says these passengers are entitled to compensation under EU law.

But Ryanair maintains that it doesn’t need to compensate passengers because the strike action amounts to “extraordinary circumstances” for the airline. On this basis, the airline has rejected compensation claims from passengers, according to the CAA.

Passengers could escalate their complaints to AviationADR, a complaints body approved by the CAA, which could provide a resolution – but Ryanair told the CAA that it has ended its agreement with the AviationADR.

In general, passengers can claim compensation if their flight is delayed for more than three hours, or is cancelled, or they are denied boarding under a piece of European regulation known as EC261/2004.

A Ryanair spokesperson said in a statement to The Independent: “Courts in Germany, Spain and Italy have already ruled that strikes are an 'extraordinary circumstance' and EU261 compensation does not apply. We expect the UK CAA and Courts will follow this precedent.”

The budget airline, Europe’s largest, has been beleaguered by strikes this summer. On 12 September, a one-day walkout called by German pilots and cabin crew affected around 150 out of 400 flights; then on 28 September, a co-ordinated walkout by a number of unions in Europe caused 250 flights to be cancelled, affecting around 40,000 passengers.

Ryanair has signed a number of ‘collective labour agreements’ with unions in Europe, which could pave the way for the end to the industrial action. Yesterday, Ryanair agreed a deal with German union VC, which covers wages and benefits.

Commenting on the CAA’s announcement, Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said: “Customers would have been outraged that Ryanair attempted to shirk its responsibilities by refusing to pay out compensation for cancelling services during the summer – which left hard-working families stranded with holiday plans stalled.

“It is right that the CAA is now taking legal action against Ryanair on the basis that such strikes were not ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and should not be exempt, to ensure that the airline must finally do the right thing by its customers and pay the compensation owed.”

Passengers who have lodged a claim for compensation relating to the strikes this summer will need to wait for the outcome of the CAA’s enforcement action, says the watchdog.

Those with new claims should contact the CAA’s complaints team here.

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