On 5th December 2018 the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) revealed that it is taking legal action against Ryanair due to their steadfast refusal to pay approximately £50 million in compensation to more than 200,000 passengers following staff strikes.
The decision is long overdue and something that we welcome as the UK’s most trusted source on flight compensation law. The airline could be fined up to millions of pounds for their breach of the law, placing accountability firmly in the right place.
In the case of Helga Krüsemann and Others v TUIfly in April 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that strikes caused by disagreements over working conditions are not extraordinary circumstances since they are both within the airline’s control and also an inherent part of running a business. So, immediately Ryanair don’t have the backing of the binding EU case law.
The airline maintains that the industrial action that wreaked havoc with passengers’ travel plans in summer 2018 was outside of their control and therefore an “extraordinary circumstance”, which exempts them from having to pay compensation. However, the CAA has confirmed that in their view, this pretext cannot be upheld, and so passengers whose flights were cancelled should be awarded their rightful compensation.
We believe that Ryanair’s actions are wholly inexcusable. They are shirking from their duty to pay compensation, and ignoring judgments that are enshrined in law.
Accept accountability: Judgments ruled in other countries don’t hold up in the UK
Ryanair is relying heavily on judgments made in Germany, Spain and Italy that ruled strikes are an extraordinary circumstance. But, these decisions are not binding in English courts.
We believe those decisions do not correctly take into account the ECJ ruling from April 2018, which ruled that strikes caused by disagreements over working conditions are not extraordinary circumstances since they are within Ryanair’s control and also an inherent part of running a business.
We have considered the Spanish judgment relied upon by Ryanair and the reasoning does not stand up to scrutiny in light of the ECJ’s decision in April 2018. In the English legal system the judgment would certainly be appealable, not least because the judgment doesn’t refer to the Krüsemann decision at all. It would not be surprising at all if the German and Italian decisions also failed to take into account the leading ECJ decision.
An unfortunate decision to cut ties with AviationADR
Adding insult to injury for passengers, as of 7 December 2018, Ryanair has also made the decision to withdraw from AviationADR, the CAA-approved alternative dispute resolution scheme. In doing this, they have only heightened the suspicion regarding their actions, leaving passengers in limbo waiting for answers. Complaints already filed with AviationADR will now be put on hold as passengers will have to await the outcome of the CAA’s enforcement action.
We can only hope that a positive outcome for passengers is reached quickly.