CAA chal­lenges Ryanair’s pay­out re­fusal

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Oliver Gill and Char­lie Tay­lor-Kroll

RYANAIR faces a “wa­ter­shed” le­gal bid by the Civil Avi­a­tion Authority to force the low-cost car­rier to pay com­pen­sa­tion to cus­tomers af­fected by a wave of strike ac­tion over the sum­mer.

The Ir­ish air­line is re­fus­ing to re­im­burse pas­sen­gers, claim­ing the ac­tion across Europe amounted to “ex­tra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances” and that com­pen­sa­tion laws do not ap­ply. In April the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice ruled that “wild­cat strikes” do not fall within the scope of “ex­tra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances”, which usu­ally re­lates to bad weather or air traf­fic con­troller dis­rup­tion.

Ryanair was hit by un­prece­dented lev­els of in­dus­trial ac­tion this sum­mer as pi­lots and cabin crew launched con­certed ac­tion.

Cou­pled with ris­ing fuel prices, the air­line ad­mit­ted in Oc­to­ber that prof­its have been hurt as re­sult. And strike ac­tion has also neg­a­tively im­pacted pas­sen­ger con­fi­dence, with fewer for­ward book­ings made over the school half-term and Christ­mas pe­ri­ods.

Mean­while, in­vestors have raised con­cerns about Ryanair’s cor­po­rate gov­er­nance, with a size­able vote against the re-elec­tion of two of its board.

The CAA’s le­gal bid to en­force such a rul­ing was praised by con­sumer groups.

Hen­rik Zillmer, chief ex­ec­u­tive of com­pen­sa­tion com­pany Airhelp, said it “marks a wa­ter­shed mo­ment for both leg­is­la­tion and im­por­tantly con­sumer avi­a­tion rights”.

Al­most a quar­ter of a mil­lion UK pas­sen­gers were af­fected by the de­lays and can­cel­la­tions, Airhelp said.

A Ryanair spokesman said: “Courts in Ger­many, Spain and Italy have al­ready ruled that strikes are an ‘ex­tra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stance’ and EU261 com­pen­sa­tion does not ap­ply. We ex­pect the UK CAA and courts will fol­low this prece­dent.”

Wa­ter­shed: Ryanair chief ex­ec­u­tive Michael O’Leary

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