Ryanair faces legal action from the UK Civil Aviation Authority over its refusal to offer compensation to thousands of passengers affected by strikes by its staff over summer.
The CAA announced December 5 that it was taking enforcement action against the low-cost carrier over its decision to refuse to pay compensation under European rules covering flight disruptions.
The airline has claimed it doesn’t need to pay compensation because courts in Germany, Spain and Italy have already ruled that strikes are an exceptional circumstance and EU261 compensation does not apply.
The airline was hit by historic walk-outs by pilots and cabin crew angry about pay and conditions. The strikes affected flights to major holiday destinations such as Spain and Portugal during a peak period.
The CAA noted that Ryanair passengers whose claims had been rejected by the airline had been able to take them to Aviation ADR, a body approved by the authority to provide alternative dispute resolution for passenger complaints.
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“Ryanair has now informed the Civil Aviation Authority that it has terminated its agreement with AviationADR,’’ the CAA said in a statement.
“As the Civil Aviation Authority said at the time of the industrial action, in its view, the strikes were not “extraordinary circumstances” and were not exempt, meaning consumers should be compensated in accordance with Regulation EC261/2004.
“ As a result of Ryanair’s action, passengers with an existing claim will now have to await the outcome of the Civil Aviation Authority’s enforcement action.”
The CAA move was applauded by UK consumer group Which?
“Customers would have been outraged that Ryanair attempted to shirk its responsibilities by refusing to pay out compensation for canceling services during the summer – which left hard-working families stranded with holiday plans stalled,’’ Which? Travel editor Rory Borland said.
“It’s 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.”
A Which? Travel investigation into airline arbitration schemes found that passengers often faced delays from airline arbitration schemes set up in the UK after airlines often refused to pay compensation.
The CAA told the consumer group in May that the approved schemes had received more than 23,000 cases up until the end of 2017 and over 11,000 had been upheld in full or part in favor of the consumer.
This translated to about 76 percent of cases where a decision had been made.
Ryanair reported earlier this week that its November traffic, including Laudamotion, grew 11 percent to 10.4 million customers compared to the same month a year ago. The load factor was 96 percent.
The airline said it operated 56,000 scheduled flights during the month with 88 percent arriving on time.