Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has stood by his decision to defy European law and not refund expenses for passengers stranded during the ash crisis.

He blamed European governments for the extent of the travel disruption, saying: “Why exactly are the airlines expected to be reimbursing people’s hotels, meals and everything else when the governments are the ones who made a balls up of this?”

Other airlines such as Bmi are reportedly considering following suit, while easyJet has agreed to pay out an estimated £15 million but will be looking for compensation.

According to Charlotte Black, a solicitor at Travlaw, the Denied Boarding Regulations place the onus on airlines to cover reasonably accrued costs such hotels and meals.

The duty of care ends if a passenger cancels a ticket.

Ryanair is alone so far in promising to defy the law, but industry bodies such as the Board of Airline Representatives, which represents close to 100 airlines including BA and Virgin Atlantic, said the relevant regulations are “draconian, disproportionate and impractical.”

Chief executive Mike Carrivick said the regulation was intended to apply when airlines had individual delays or cancelled flights, and not full-scale airspace closure imposed by governments.