EU rules against Ryanair to protect passenger’s rights



REFERRING to Ryanair’s cancellation of a flight during the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010, the European Union (EU) has ruled that there is no limit in either time or money to the airline’s responsibility in looking after its passengers. A passenger who had to wait seven days for a flight and incurring more than 1,000 euros (US$1,364) as a consequence had brought Ryanair to court. (See To fly or not to fly through Icelandic ash cloud, May 11, 2010)

While Ryanair argued that circumstances were so extraordinary that normal rules should not apply, the EU maintained that such events “constitute ‘extraordinary circumstances’ which do not release air carriers from their obligation to provide care”. According to EU regulation on passenger rights, these obligations cover “the whole period during which the passengers concerned must await their re-routing.”

Ryanair is said to have already paid out 27m euros in compensation to passengers who were left stranded by the ash cloud.

The EU has been a frontrunner in protecting passenger’s rights although the implementation has been riddled with loopholes that may be exploited by affected airlines to avoid any payout. That aside, airlines generally are protected by events that are generally referred to as “acts of God, so said Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary referring to the EU judgment: “You can’t make the airlines responsible for all fo these acts of God.”

The issue is: What do you do under the circumstances? The EU ruling is likely to assert pressure on airlines to take a more concerned approach towards an affected passenger’s plight and not wash their hands completely of the situation, recognizing that under the circumstances, a passenger is often helpless but an airline can probably do something to alleviate his or her predicament.


About David Leo
David Leo has more than 30 years of aviation experience, having served in senior management in one of the world's best airlines and airports. He continues to maintain a keen interest in the business, writes freelance and provides consultancy services in the field.

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