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Ryanair cancels hundreds of flights - here are your rights

Hundreds of Ryanair flights have been cancelled today after strikes were called by staff in Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands - if you're affected, here's what you need to know.

The airline said 396 flights have been cancelled as a result of the action, meaning tens of thousands of holiday-makers could face disruption.

But the key rule is if your flight is cancelled you're entitled to a new flight (possibly with an alternative airline) or refund, and potentially £100s in compensation.  See below for more on your rights.

For your full rights when flights are delayed or cancelled see our Flight Delay Compensation guide.

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What are my rights when my flight is cancelled?

Under EU flight delay law you have rights if your flight is cancelled or delayed. For these rules to apply the flight must have left from an EU airport, or you must have arrived at an EU airport on an EU airline. Under this law, EU airports also include those in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

If your flight is cancelled you're entitled to alternative flight or a refund - regardless of what has caused the issues.

It's also worth noting you may be entitled to ask for a flight on an alternative airline, if the one you are offered by your airline is inconvenient. It's a bit of grey area as to when the airline should agree that its offer is inconvenient, but if you have found a better flight with an alternative airline you can ask to be booked onto that instead.

It's important that you ask your airline to rebook you, rather than just doing it yourself, to ensure you're not left out of pocket.

In September last year, Ryanair agreed to put passengers on alternative airlines after the regulator the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) stepped in. See our MSE Ryanair agrees to put passengers on other airlines' flights News story for more information.

What if I'm stuck at the airport?

If you're stuck at the airport now waiting for your Ryanair flight, here are the key need-to-knows:

  • Ryanair should tell you what's going on. Ask at a check-in desk but also look at its website and Twitter for updates. Check the email you used when booking too, in case you've been sent an update, and its app may have info. You can also enter your flight number on FlightRadar24, which tracks planes in real time, to see if it can give you an idea of what's going on.
  • You're entitled to food and drink. Regardless of what caused the hold-up, Ryanair must look after you if you're delayed or waiting for an alternative flight if your original was cancelled. It should provide food and drink (or vouchers to buy them) if you're delayed more than two hours on a short-haul flight or three hours on medium haul. If it's unable to, you can buy your own and claim back, but make sure you keep receipts – remember only reasonable expenses are covered, so keep them to a minimum.
  • You're entitled to accommodation if needed. If delayed overnight you're entitled to a hotel, and Ryanair must also provide transport to and from it. Ideally it would book the hotel so always check first, but if it's unable to help, try to find a reasonably priced one and keep all receipts – again it's unlikely to cover a luxury hotel.

Keep hold of any evidence. As well as keeping receipts, note the reason you were given for the delay or cancellation and screenshot any information you may have seen on Twitter etc, as this could prove useful if you later claim compensation.

For full information, see the stuck at the airport section of our Flight Delays guide.

I think I'm owed compensation - what should I do?

The Civil Aviation Authority says that airlines should payout if their own staff strike, and this results in delays or cancellations that meet the criteria for compensation. This is based on a ruling by the European Court of Justice earlier this year, see our MSE You CAN claim for flight delays and cancellations caused by 'wildcat' strikes after EU court ruling News story for more information.

There are many rules around whether a flight cancellation meets the criteria for compensation and we have all the details in our Flight Delays guide. In brief you may be able to claim if:

  • It's the airline's fault – eg, airport staff strikes aren't covered but strikes by airline staff are.
  • If your flight is cancelled less than 14 days before departure
  • If your flight is cancelled and the alternative flight you're offered arrives over a certain amount of time late – if you opt for an alternative flight, or even if you go for a refund on your original ticket, rather than opt to be re-routed - meaning you don't travel - you can claim compensation based on the timings of the alternative flight offered, see how to check

If you have been affected by the Ryanair flights and you think you are owed compensation you should try to claim from Ryanair in the first instance. You can use our free flight delays tool to submit and track your claim.

If it refuses to pay you compensation you will need to escalate your claim to the AviationADR scheme - the alternative dispute resolution scheme Ryanair has signed up to help resolve customers' complaints. This is free to do.

Ryanair has been told it MUST pay compensation

Ryanair has signed up to Aviation ADR, which is an independent alternative dispute resolution service which deals with disputes between airlines and passengers. Any ruling it issues are binding on the airline.

Aviation ADR told us that Ryanair should be paying out if passengers meet the EU flight delay law criteria above. It said it is following the European Court of Justice ruling which found that wildcat strikes were not extraordinary circumstances, and they are not exempt from compensation.

In a statement, it said: "So far, all complaints that we have processed in relation to strike action at Ryanair have been determined in favour of the passenger, predominantly on the basis that we have seen no evidence to substantiate any submissions that the cause of such delay amounted to 'extraordinary circumstances'.

"We understand that Ryanair is submitting further evidence in relation to the current pilot and crew strikes. Once received, we will review the evidence to decide whether it has any impact on the outcome of any passenger complaints that we have not yet determined."

What does Ryanair say?

A Ryanair spokesperson apologised for the disruption and said the 'majority' of customers have been moved to other Ryanair flights.

A spokesperson said: "Ryanair fully complies with all EU261 legislation, however as these flight cancellations were caused by extraordinary circumstances, no compensation is due. 

"Under EU261 legislation, no compensation is payable when the union is acting unreasonably and totally beyond the airline's control. If this was within our control, there would be no cancellations."

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