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Ryanair faces enforcement action after refusing to pay strike compensation

The aviation regulator is taking enforcement action against Ryanair, after the budget airline refused to compensate passengers hit by strike-related disruption. 

Ryanair passengers suffered widespread disruption this summer after hundreds of flights were cancelled, following strikes by the airline's pilots and cabin crew.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says that affected passengers should be due compensation under EU flight delay rules – but Ryanair insists that the strikes were "extraordinary circumstances", meaning it shouldn't have to pay out.

Up to now, Ryanair has been signed up to the AviationADR, a CAA-approved alternative dispute resolution service. This meant that if a passenger applied to Ryanair for compensation and was rejected, they could escalate their dispute to AviationADR.

But Ryanair has now told the CAA it is cutting ties with AviationADR – which has the most members of all UK ADR schemes, with 19 airlines signed up – leaving passengers with existing compensation claims in limbo.

See our Flight Delay Compensation guide for more on claiming for flight disruption, and 20 Ryanair tips on mastering the airline's rules.

What are the rules around strike compensation?

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.

Other criteria apply, including that you must have arrived at least three hours late and that it must be the airline's fault, ie, not an "extraordinary circumstance."

In April, the European Court of Justice said that airlines should pay out even for 'wildcat' strikes – where the strike hasn't been officially organised by a trade union – as they are not an extraordinary circumstance.

Leading flight delay solicitors Bott & Co say this is the only binding case on UK courts regarding strike action. It believes the ruling on wildcat strikes also applies to planned strikes, which caused the Ryanair disruption. In October, it issued a test case in an English court to seek confirmation of this.

In August, AviationADR confirmed that it had found in favour of passengers over Ryanair strikes, as it had seen no evidence that they should be considered extraordinary circumstances. We've asked Ryanair if it has paid any compensation following these rulings and will update when we know more.

It's worth noting that a strike by airport staff is not considered the airline's fault and so it would not have to pay compensation. See our Flight Delays guide for more info.

What happens next?

The CAA has written to Ryanair calling on the airline to meet its obligations for passenger compensation.

It's now up to Ryanair to respond – and if the CAA finds its response unsatisfactory, the next step would be court action.

What if I need to make a claim against Ryanair?

If you think you're owed compensation but haven't yet put in a claim, you should still contact Ryanair directly – don't let this row put you off.

See our Flight Delays guide for more information, including our free tool to help you complain.

If you're not satisfied with the response, or you don't hear back after eight weeks, you can escalate the case to the CAA.

What if I've got an outstanding strike claim with Ryanair?

If you've submitted a strike claim to Ryanair, you need to wait for its response.

If you're unhappy with its response, or it's been more than eight weeks since you submitted your claim, you can escalate your claim to the CAA.

What if I'm waiting for AviationADR to rule on my strike claim?

Unfortunately, if you've got an outstanding strike-related compensation claim against Ryanair with AviationADR, your complaint will be put on hold and you'll need to wait for the outcome of the CAA's action.

We've asked the CAA what will happen after this and how you will be kept informed about your case, and we've asked what passengers with non-strike claims should do. We will update this story when we hear back.

What if I'm waiting for Ryanair to pay compensation following an AviationADR ruling?

Any decisions AviationADR makes about a consumer's case should be binding on the airline.

If AviationADR rules that you're owed a compensation payment, the airline must pay out within 30 days.

But Ryanair has now cut ties with AviationADR, leaving passengers with outstanding claims in limbo.

So for now, if AviationADR ruled in your favour, you may need to sit tight and wait to see what happens with the CAA enforcement action. The only other option would be to file a case at small claims court.

What does Ryanair say?

A Ryanair spokesperson said: "Courts in Germany, Spain and Italy have already ruled that strikes are an 'exceptional circumstance' and EU261 compensation [relating to EU flight delay regulation] does not apply. We expect the UK CAA and courts will follow this precedent."

We've asked Ryanair for further details about these cases and will update this story when we hear back.