In the summer of 2018, consumers across Europe were subject to flight delays and cancellations because of strikes by Ryanair staff. Our member in Spain, OCU, launched a legal action to get full compensation for Spanish consumers after Ryanair tried to avoid its legal responsibility to do so.
OCU felt it had no choice but to take Ryanair to court after the airline refused to comply with laws on flight compensation for delays under the EU Passenger Rights Regulation 6261/2004. OCU represented 155 families, made up of 365 consumers in total who had been left delayed and denied compensation that was rightfully theirs by the airline.
Ryanair’s tactics to avoid compensating consumers for strike delays
Under EU rules, airlines have to pay compensation on top of refunds for delays and cancellations that are within their control. This compensation ranges from 250 to 600 euros, and additional amounts can be claimed where emotional or moral damages can be proved. These are strong European rules, but companies like Ryanair have tried to wriggle out of their legal obligations.
In the summer of 2018, around 400 Ryanair flights were disrupted by three days of strike action by their own staff. This was something that was scheduled in advance, widely reported on publicly and therefore clearly something that the company knew about.
However, Ryanair tried to argue that the strikes and subsequent inconvenience to consumers was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and thus they would not need to pay compensation.
Our member in Belgium, Test Achats / Test Aankoop launched a similar action for Belgian passengers after Ryanair made the same argument to avoid paying compensation. A settlement was reached in 2021 and Ryanair is now compensating consumers for these strikes.
In the UK too, public enforcers took action against the airline for employing the same avoidance tactics. This resulted in the national Court of Appeal ruling that strike action was not in fact an extraordinary circumstance. This month, Ryanair dropped their appeal against this decision and has agreed to provide compensation to passengers impacted by the 2018 strike.
Compensation result in Spain for delayed consumers
In Spain, after filing the case against Ryanair, the company filed a written statement to the court which accepted some of the claim in part. At a hearing last year in February 2022, the court awarded a total of 125,643 Euros plus additional interest, awarding members around €800 for each claim.
OCU now hopes that the company will pay these amounts swiftly and voluntarily and not force those affected to go to court again to get the amount paid.
Good news for air passenger rights
Obtaining judicial recognition of consumers’ rights in cases like these is really important for all air passengers. Although the award in the Spanish court relates to the 365 consumers who were part of the claim, OCU is now encouraging anyone affected by strikes or other types of flight cancellations to continue with their claims, strengthened by this court decision.
It should also have a deterrent effect on Ryanair and any other airline trying to avoid meeting its legal obligations.
Euroconsumers would like to see fast and easy consumer justice for anyone impacted by airline strike action regardless of where they live. International companies’ deep pockets mean they can choose to fight and delay claims against them despite all the evidence pointing to consumer rights being harmed.
As a multi-country network we know the value of aligning action across borders and want to make sure that all consumers can expect the same high standards across the continent.