Irish budget airline Ryanair (FR/RYR) ruling has welcomed a ruling that means it does not have to pay EU261 compensation to customers caught up in the Pilot & Cabin Crew strikes.
The ruling on appeal, which confirms an original ruling, will come as a blow to the Civil Aviation Authority who insisted Ryanair was liable.
The CAA previously said: “We note that the recent industrial action is not by Ryanair’s UK employees, but it is the view of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, taking account of previous Court rulings, that when a flight cancellation is caused by strike action by the airline’s employees, the airline is required to pay compensation to passengers in respect of the cancellation of the flight, if it has not warned passengers of the cancellation at least two weeks prior to the scheduled time of departure.”
Delivering the ruling, His Honour Judge Iain Hughes QC said that “any court will readily accept that employment terms and conditions are part of running an airline, but that does not mean that a particular problem with terms and conditions must be inherent. The authorities make it clear that the court has to look at the cause or origin of the problem.“
In relation to ‘control’, his Judge Hughes found that “as a matter of principle no airline can control the demands made on it by a trade union. All airlines, whether they are state-owned or owned by their shareholders, are subject to competing interests and cannot simply concede all such demands as are made on them by trade unions. Airlines have to take into account a much broader range of interests, including the interest of the business itself, the interests of passengers, the interests of non-striking employees, the interests of its owners and must have regard to the competition that it faces in the market place”.
Ryanair’s Kenny Jacobs said: “We welcome this confirmation by the UK Court that these 2018 union-led strikes constitute extraordinary circumstances. Ryanair pays the vast majority of EU261 compensation claims it receives without dispute, but on occasion Ryanair must reject claims where we believe an unavoidable disruption is due to extraordinary circumstances.
“While we do not wish to disappoint customers, who may have been expecting EU261 compensation, we must defend such claims as we have a duty to all our customers (Ryanair will fly more than 150 million customers this year), our staff and the regions we serve to manage our costs responsibly. Failure by Ryanair in this regard would raise fares and reduce choice for all our customers, in particular on regional routes which are disproportionately affected by EU261 costs.
“This ruling follows similar court decisions in Ireland, Spain, Germany, France and Italy. Ryanair fully complies with all EU261 legislation and pays all valid EU261 claims within an industry-leading 10 days.“
Under EU261 regulations, passengers are entitled to compensation if their flight (originating from the EU) is cancelled or arrives more than 3 hours late to its destination. However, this only applies when the reason is within the airline’s control so things such as weather delays or terrorism arent covered.
The ruling effectively means that union-led strikes by employees of an airline are not within the control of the airline.
Despite the UK’s recent departure from the European Union (EU), EU261 still applies as part of the transition period.