Ryanair wins High Court battle over flight delay compensation

Europe’s biggest budget airline wins High Court case over legal fees 

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 21 March 2018 14:32 GMT
Late show? Ryanair Boeing 737 at Malta airport
Late show? Ryanair Boeing 737 at Malta airport (Simon Calder)

A High Court judge has rejected a claim against Ryanair from a firm of solicitors over flight delay compensation.

Bott & Co, a Cheshire-based practice specialising in airline passengers’ claims, had sought to recover legal fees in cases where Ryanair had settled direct with the customer.

Under European passengers’ rights rules, airlines are liable to pay cash compensation for delays in arrival of three hours or more.

An airline need not pay when “extraordinary circumstances” are to blame. Examples include air traffic control strikes or bad weather. But mechanical faults or staffing issues are not acceptable excuses.

It was revealed in court that the solicitors’ firm handles around 25,000 compensation claims a year involving European passengers’ rights rules. The average payout is €327 (£286), of which Bott & Co collects one third: £95.

In most cases airlines pay the firm, which deducts its fee and passes on the rest to the client. But in 2016 Ryanair began to settle direct with passengers.

Bott & Co’s High Court claim was for unpaid fees in such cases. It had tried to recoup the money from the passenger, but 30 per cent did not pay.

The solicitors also argued that a clause in Ryanair’s terms and conditions requiring passengers to contact the airline before submitting a claim through a third party was unfair.

But Judge Edward Murray ruled: “Ryanair has established a straightforward and easy to use process for its passengers to make their flight delay compensation claims, either online or by correspondence, without the assistance of a third party.”

Ryanair’s chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, told The Independent the judgment “changes the game”.

“This will help prevent ‘claims chaser’ firms like Bott & Co, Fairplane, Hayward Baker, Sky Legal, Flightright, and Flight Heroes, deliberately and needlessly dragging consumers through the courts so they can grab more than 40 per cent of customers’ compensation, for providing no useful service,” he said.

“Where customers have a valid claim for compensation, they can make their claim directly on the Ryanair.com website.” The airline claims it pays valid claims within 10 days.

David Bott of Bott & Co said: “We are very disappointed in the judgment in our case against Ryanair as we believe it is wrong and we will be appealing the decision.

“For over five years we have worked tirelessly to bring airlines to account under Regulation EC261/2004 and in doing so, to improve the rights of millions of air passengers flying in or out of the UK each year.

“This latest judgment is of course a setback for the freedom of choice of passengers in getting help on their compensation claims in an area of law that is not without its complexity.

“We have always offered the ‘direct to airline’ approach for our customers and provide free letters of claim on our website with a free flight delay checker for passengers to check their eligibility under the Regulation.

“Despite this, thousands of passengers choose to use our paid service rather than having the hassle and additional delays of dealing directly with the airline.

“With no intermediary, who is expected to hold airlines to account? Our track record of taking airlines all the way to the Supreme Court for passenger rights speaks for itself.”

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