Budget airline Ryanair has declared it WILL recognise the jurisdiction of British courts in flight delay compensation cases, but only if customers shun third-party claims firms and approach the airline directly.
It comes after the Dublin-based airline told a customer, known only as Ms Menditta, that she would have to pursue her flight delay claim through the Irish legal system – a stance which sparked concerns over the future handling of delay claims that are escalated to the courts.
Under EU law passengers are able to claim between £100 and £500 in compensation for delayed and cancelled flights, and many successfully do so in the UK each year.
However, in the case of Ms Menditta, Ryanair filed court papers arguing that when customers book they agree to its terms and conditions, which state that contract disputes will normally be subject to the jurisdiction of Irish courts.
The move sparked concern that UK-based customers could be put off bringing claims against Ryanair in future due to the cost and inconvenience of bringing a claim in Ireland.
But in a partial concession on the issue, Ryanair now says its jurisdiction clause only applies to cases such as Ms Menditta's, where a third-party "claim-chaser" firm is used – and NOT to customers who approach Ryanair directly and are then rejected.
Ms Menditta's legal costs are being funded through an arrangement with compensation firm FlightDelays.co.uk, which works with her legal representatives Hughes Walker Solicitors.
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Ryanair's head of communications Robin Kiely told MoneySavingExpert.com: "If an individual customer makes an EU261 claim directly to Ryanair (as we require) and their claim is rejected, then that customer can pursue his/her claim in the UK courts."
In a separate press release the airline said: "Cases involving UK claims chasers will be heard in the Irish courts under a jurisdiction clause (which has been part of Ryanair's terms & conditions of travel since 2010) in order to protect consumers and force UK claims chasers to discontinue their abusive practices."
Clause 2.4 of Ryanair's terms and conditions states: "Except as otherwise provided by the convention or applicable law, your contract of carriage with us, these terms & conditions of carriage and our regulations shall be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Ireland and any dispute arising out of or in connection with this contract shall be subject to the jurisdiction of the Irish courts."
We've examined the clause and found nothing to suggest it's applicable only in cases involving claims firms. However, Ryanair's statement appears to make it clear that it will only use the clause where third-party firms are used to bring claims.
Escalating a flight delay compensation claim to court is usually the last resort for a claimant. The first port of call would be lodging a claim with the relevant airline; if that's not dealt with satisfactorily you can contact the appropriate dispute resolution body (which in the case of Ryanair is the Retail Ombudsman). If all else fails you can can take your claim to court.
It's worth pointing out that Ryanair's stance on jurisdiction only has implications for the third and final stage of the compensation process (taking a claim to court).
You can lodge a claim without involving a third-party firm, simply by using our flight compensation tool.
Additional reporting by Megan French.