The European Court of Justice has ruled Ryanair must reimburse passengers for reasonable costs after the volcanic ash cloud crisis. If you’ve suffered from a cancelled or delayed flight, how were you treated?
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) found in favour of one of the airline’s passengers, Denise McDonagh, who was stranded in Portugal for a week after the Icelandic ash cloud crisis. She had asked for €1,130 (£970) to cover the cost of meals, refreshments, accommodation and transport during the crisis.
Airlines must provide care to passengers whose flights are delayed for two hours or more or cancelled, even if the problem is caused by extraordinary circumstances.
The extraordinary ash cloud crisis?
Ryanair had argued that the ash cloud was so extraordinary that it should be released from its obligation under EU law to look after its passengers. But, in a ruling that applies to all airlines, the court concluded that it does not recognise a special category of ‘particularly unusual circumstances’ that would give airlines a get-out.
So Ryanair must pay this passenger, and other airlines won’t be able to try to escape their obligations in another crisis. The court also said there was no limit on the time airlines had to look after passengers. In fact, it said that it was particularly important passengers are looked after if they are stranded for a lengthy amount of time.
Will flight ticket prices go up?
Despite this, the ruling has said that airlines can pass on the cost of providing care to ticket prices. Ryanair immediately claimed the decision would increase the cost of flying across Europe.
The airline said the extra costs would have to come from passengers because the airline could not recover them from governments or unions. It claimed airlines had now become the insurer of last resort, as insurance companies had avoided liability for ash cloud costs by arguing it was an ‘act of God’.
Ryanair ticket prices actually already include an ‘EU261 levy’ to cover compensation. At Which?, we don’t think there’s a reason for airlines to push up prices. The ruling has simply confirmed the existing law that airlines must reimburse passengers for reasonable costs. So, there should be no reason for any airline to increase prices as a result.
Do you think airlines will put up prices as a result of the ECJ’s ruling? If you’ve ever suffered from a cancelled or delayed flight, did the airline give you the help you were entitled to?