Ryanair wins legal battle to avoid strike-led compensation payouts

Ryanair has won a legal battle to avoid paying passenger delay compensation due to flight disruption caused  by strike action.

A judgement on appeal confirmed that such union-led strikes constitute ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and are beyond the airline’s control.

As a result the carrier confirmed that it will not pay out under EU261 compensation rules over strikes which affected flights two years ago.

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The UK ruling follows similar court decisions in Ireland, Spain, Germany, France and Italy.

Ryanair chief marketing officer 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.”

His Honour Judge Iain Hughes QC found 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.”

The judge also found that “as a matter of principle no airline can control the demands made on it by a trade union”.

He added: “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.”  

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