Ryanair faces legal action after the UK's aviation regulator has found it's been wrongly rejecting flight delay and cancellation claims.

Under EU rules, passengers who are delayed by at least three hours or whose flights are cancelled can, in certain circumstances, claim up to €600 (about £420) per person, unless the delay is outside of the airline's control. Check our Flight Delays Compensation guide to see if you're eligible to claim.

But the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says it's "not satisfied" Ryanair is paying compensation for claims for disruption caused by routine technical faults, despite the Court of Appeal (Jet2 v Huzar), and only yesterday, the European Court of Justice (van der Lans v KLM) clarifying that airlines must do so.

The regulator has also found Ryanair guilty of wrongly attempting to impose a contractual two-year time limit from the date of the flight, for passengers to issue compensation claims at court – this is despite it previously publicly committing to a six year time limit, and in spite the Court of Appeal (Dawson v Thomson) ruling that passengers should have up to six years to take a claim to court.

The CAA will now consult with the budget airline and could ask it to sign a legally binding document agreeing to comply with the law. It's not clear how long this process will take, but the CAA says it hopes the issues will be resolved as soon as possible.

If Ryanair doesn't agree to change, the CAA can take it to court, where if it still refuses to follow the law, it can be fined an unlimited amount.

In the meantime, passengers can continue to submit claims as normal. See our Flight Delays Compensation guide to see if you're due up to £440 per person, and help on how to claim including our free online complaints tool.

Martin Lewis
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'The law is clear'

Andrew Haines, chief executive of the CAA, says: "The law is clear that compensation must be paid if a flight is delayed for more than three hours by a routine technical fault. It is also clear that air passengers have up to six years to issue a compensation claim at court. This position was reaffirmed by the Court of Appeal last year.

"The CAA is committed to protecting the rights of air passengers and we are determined to ensure all airlines comply with this regulation. That is why we are announcing this latest action against Ryanair today as our recent work has shown it is not complying with this consumer law."

Ryanair faces legal action for wrongly rejecting flight delay claims
Ryanair faces legal action for wrongly rejecting flight delay claims

Is the CAA investigating other airlines too?

Earlier this year the CAA conducted a six month review into the 15 airlines operating in the UK with the highest passenger figures, which covers over 80% of the UK's aviation market.

As a result, the CAA took action against three airlines:

  • Jet2 signed a legally binding document agreeing not to reject compensation claims for disruption caused by technical faults, and agreeing not to impose a two year time limit on claims. It also agreed to proactively give passengers information on their rights during disruption.

  • Wizz Air agreed not to reject compensation claims for disruption caused by technical faults, but according to the CAA it refused to look into compensation claims about flights that took place over two years ago. The CAA referred this issue to the Hungarian Authority for Consumer Protection (HACP), which it says has agreed to take on the case.

  • Aer Lingus signed a legally binding document agreeing to proactively give passengers information on their rights during disruption.

Ryanair was part of the original review and told the CAA at the time that it was dealing with claims in line with the law. However, a further review by the CAA revealed that Ryanair wasn't fully complying with the rules.

The CAA is also undergoing a review into the 16 airlines operating in the UK with the next highest passenger figures, after which, in total it will have looked at 90% of the UK's aviation market. The findings of this second review are expected to be published later this year.

What does Ryanair say?

Ryanair's director of customer service Fiona Kearns says: "Ryanair fully complies with EU 261 regulations which is a fundamental part of our customer charter and our "Always Getting Better" programme.

"Ryanair has requested an early meeting with the CAA to clarify any misunderstandings that may have arisen in dealing with some historic cases."

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