/ Travel & Leisure

Stranded in Gran Canaria – not as nice as you’d think!

A woman waiting with her luggage

Last week Which? reported on the French air traffic controller strikes that grounded hundreds of European flights, stranding thousands of people. I was one of the many travellers affected, stuck in a foreign country.

After four days sunning myself on a beach in Gran Canaria, I was all set to come home on Tuesday 11 June. But arriving at the airport two hours before my 12.10pm Ryanair flight, I found it had been cancelled.

Without any further information obviously available, I headed to the Ryanair desk, where I had to wait in a queue for around one hour. Through overhearing broken conversations from other English-speaking holidaymakers, I realised that affected Ryanair passengers had been sent an email.

Checking my emails on my phone (which cost me money), I had been sent an email at 6.40am that morning informing me that the flight had been cancelled due to the strike, and that I would be able to transfer to the next available one, or get a refund.

Finding my way home

Well, the next available Ryanair flight to my original destination, London, was on Saturday 15 June! There was a flight scheduled for the next day, but this was a little risky as it was still during the planned strike action. Wanting to get back to the UK sooner, I opted for a flight to Bristol on the Thursday instead.

I was lucky compared to a lot of other travellers – staying with friends who live there meant I didn’t have to fork out for more nights in a hotel. But I did have to pay for transport to and from the Gran Canaria airport, a train from Bristol to London and general living costs that I hadn’t budgeted for.

Do I have a right to claim?

So will I get any of this money back? According to the Denied Boarding Regulations, if your flight is cancelled you are entitled to ‘assistance’, ie food, refreshments and, in the case of not being able to fly until the next day or later, accommodation and transfers to and from the airport.

But I wasn’t told about my rights when I transferred my flight. Not having had prior warning about this assistance, and because I was staying with friends, I didn’t get receipts for everything. If you’re ever in a similar situation, make sure you do.

In addition, I didn’t talk to Ryanair about financial help with the train from Bristol to London. Airlines sometimes agree to help with onward travel costs, as it can mean saving on the accommodation and assistance costs they have to pay while you wait. I’ll have to see what Ryanair says when I send a letter explaining the situation and expenses.

My insurance policy regrets

On top of ‘assistance’, you can sometimes claim compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight. But, if the airline can prove ‘extraordinary circumstances’, such as strike action, compensation is not payable.

I also checked my travel insurance policy to see if I could get further help. But because my cover is basic, I’m not covered for strike action. Looking at our unexpected event insurance cover ratings before I bought a policy would have been handy.

Were you affected by the strikes? Are you planning on trying to claim back the extra money you spent while you were stranded?


Ryanair makes it particularly difficult to claim reimbursement because it corresponds only via postal letter to a non-UK address or a premium rate telephone number. It has to provide an e-mail address by law but it fails to do so.

Regulation 6(1)(c) of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 mandates that where a company sells its goods or services via a web site, it must provide an e-mail address for communication “in a direct and effective manner”. This is the UK’s enactment of Article 5(1)(c) of Directive 2000/31/EC “Directive on electronic commerce”, which is likewise enacted in Ireland (Ryanair’s country of incorporation) under Regulation 7(1)(c) of the European Communities (Directive 2000/31/EC) Regulations 2003.

This is a deliberate ploy by Ryanair to discourage claims and complaints. Why don’t the authorities take action against this malpractice?

Good point NFH. Just the type of case for Which? to be on.

As of today

“Customer Service Backlog
Following the flight cancellations caused by the French Air Traffic Controllers strike on the 11/12th June we are receiving high volumes of correspondence. We are currently working on correspondence received on the 9th July 2013. Please do not resubmit your correspondence as it may further delay our response to you. We sincerely apologise for this delay but can assure you that we are working to clear this correspondence backlog as soon as possible”

And no I cannot see an e-mail address. Over to you Which?


Robn Haddow says:
7 September 2013

I was stranded in Spain when Ryanair cancelled my flight due to the French strike. Certain other airlines did not cancel their flights, I believe they flew around French airspace. I was able to book a flight back to the UK with Vueling 3 days later but the total cost of these flights plus 3 nights hotel accommodation amounted to £700. Situations such as this are not covered by normal travel insurance.

Ryanair have refunded the cost of our Ryanair flights but I am still £700 out of pocket. They have refused any compensation towards this cost on the basis that the French stike was outwith their control, which I accept it was. However, other airlines were able to deal with the situation whereas Ryanair simply chose to cancel all of their flights. Clearly they took a decision to abandon their customers rather than pay for additional fuel, unlike Easy Jet, BA, for example.

I have no idea how a company which trades online is able to get away without accepting correspondence by email. I had to write to them in Ireland (by recorded delivery as i’m sure otherwise my letter would have been binned) as the fax number they provided would not accept my fax, and who uses fax these days anyway?

The bottom line is that whilst Ryanair may appear to be cheap, their flights suck, as do their hidden and otherwise excessive charges. Their customer service is pretty much non-existent and be warned, if anything goes wrong they will strand you abroad without a second thought and the whole thing can end up being an expensive nightmare.

Under the section Phone Numbers they mention a contact form – that is it. The only place I could find it was in Phone Numbers. PS not that I would need it as I am resolved never to fly RyanAir. I am sure given their treatment of pilots its only a matter of time.


“If you want to speak to a Ryanair reservations agent please click on the relevant country below for details on the Ryanair phone numbers, per minute cost and opening hours of our support lines.

To make a new booking go online http://www.ryanair.com/.

To change a booking, add items of baggage, sports equipment, priority boarding, reserved seating this can all be done on the web using Manage My Booking (flight/name/route changes can only be completed before online check-in takes place),

If you have a question, why not check out the Ryanair Frequently Asked Questions or via our Contact Form”

BTW the aspect of your cover not applying because you suggest other airlines solved the problem does sound a serious flaw in the system . Either your insurance is deficient or RyanAir are getting away with more sharp practice. Perhaps Which? can investigate?

Greatbear says:
25 June 2014

Just got back from Lanzarote, due to fly back with Ryanair on 24/06/2014 flight FR 8289, received text message at 10:51, email at 10.49 am, already at the airport by this time, yet the outbound flight should have left UK at 06.25 so why did it take four and a half hours to let me know. Also Leeds Bradford flight from Lanzarote cancelled hours before we are due at airport so Ryanair had clearly decided not to fly to various destinations,but still did not let us know early enough. When I arrived at airport 10:10 am my flight was not showing cancelled even though the outbound flight from the UK had never left, fifteen minutes later the flight is cancelled. Ryanair were still flying to Dublin, Cork and Liverpool but not prepared to re route other flights due to increased fuel costs. All other airlines were flying albeit with delays. This is clearly a case of Ryanair pulling a fast one here and they should not be allowed to get away with this. I took photos of the departure board and Ryanair were the only carrier cancelling flights, and these were to Leeds Bradford, Stansted and East Midlands all normally flying over French airspace. Got a flight with Monarch into Gatwick for the same day, yes it was delayed but not canceled.any noise about aircraft being in the wrong place is just noise as the outbound flight from Stansted should have left at 06.20 on the 24/06/2014 so would have been the first flight of the day for that aircraft. Ryanair need to be brought to book for this.

My flight from Tenerife was cancelled on the 21st March 2016 to East Midlands, I had to stay two nights in a hotel and kept all receipts etc. for food and drinks. We could only fly to Luton in the end and had to pay another £80 for a taxi from there. Its been two months since Ive heard or had feedback from Ryanair. Its impossiblt to get any info from them despite them having my claim.