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Ryanair backs down! PDF
Thursday, 22 April 2010 00:00

No it’s not April Fool’s Day or el Día de los Inocentes!  It’s true, Ryanair has backed down over an issue – probably for the first time ever!

As a result of the six-day shutdown of European airspace, caused by the ash cloud from the volcanic eruptions in Iceland, airlines are expecting hundreds of thousands of claims from stranded passengers.

However, yesterday the Irish low-cost airline announced it would only consider claims up to the value of the original ticket price paid, in flagrant breach of EU flight regulations.

This provoked widespread anger and condemnation.  Foreign office minister Chris Bryant told the Times: "Most of the airlines have been exemplary. But many people feel badly let down by Ryanair for failing to let them know whether they are getting on a flight or not."

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker issued this statement: "Michael O'Leary's outrageous decision not to compensate customers after the upheaval of the last week is a blatant defiance of EU consumer rules.

"This is shocking behaviour and rubs salt into the wounds for those who have been stranded overseas. This will make people think twice about travelling with Ryanair in the future."

Yet, according to the Press Association the budget airline today ended its defiance of EU regulations by agreeing to fully compensate its passengers caught up in the ash-cloud crisis.

The airline said that it would comply with the regulations under which EU airlines are required to reimburse the "reasonable receipted expenses of disrupted passengers".  However, regulation EU261 states that passengers are not entitled to compensation, as the closure of European airspace over the past seven days was beyond the control of European airlines.

Chief Executive O’Leary said he still intends to challenge the regulations, which he regards as unfair to airlines.  He told BBC News: "The events of the last seven days have exposed just how ridiculous and absurd these reimbursement provisions are in the case of catastrophic seven-day closures like this."

He also revealed the crisis has cost Ryanair €30-40m.  Asked if Ryanair would make it difficult to make claims, O'Leary said "Perish the thought".

This is what O'Leary said: The events of the last seven days, under which Europe's airlines were prevented from flying by the closure of European airspace, highlight how absurd and discriminatory the EU261 regulations are towards Europe's airlines. While competitor ferry, coach and train operators are obliged to reimburse passengers reasonable expenses, this reimbursement is limited to the ticket price paid to those operators.

“Yet the airlines are required by regulation to meet potentially unlimited expenses, in circumstances where there has been a catastrophic closure of European airspace over the past seven days, as EU Governments and Regulators wrongly applied a blanket ban on flights over European airspace.

Ryanair has long campaigned for these reimbursements under passenger rights legislation to be limited to the ticket price paid in the same way they are for train, coach and ferry operators. We will continue to work through the European Low Fares Airlines Association (ELFAA) and other industry bodies to persuade the European Commission and the European Parliament to alter this regulation to put this reasonable limit on these reimbursement claims".

But for now, let’s rejoice that for once the no-frills airline has been forced to back down.  I can’t wait for them to back down on some other things, like ripping us off with online check-in charges, card payment charges per person per flight, exhorbitant excess baggage charges, etc.  Although I think I might be waiting a long time!

©  Paul Whitelock




Paul Whitelock

Paul is a Joint Honours graduate in Spanish and German, a qualified teacher (PGCE) and has a Member of the Institute of Linguists (MIL) qualification.

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