RYANAIR CANCELLATIONS: A game of snakes and ladders with Ryanair, the regulator and you

Imagine you are playing a game of snakes and ladders, writes Joyce Fegan.

RYANAIR CANCELLATIONS: A game of snakes and ladders with Ryanair, the regulator and you

Now, imagine you have just had your Ryanair flight cancelled and you are playing snakes and ladders.

Are you entitled to be rerouted on another airline, or can you only take another Ryanair flight?

Get the answer wrong and you fall, get it right and you climb.

Let’s get the easy part out of the way.

If Ryanair gives you between seven days and two weeks notice, you are not entitled to compensation. If they give you less than seven days notice, it is different.

Ryanair also needs to offer you rerouting that has you up in the air, no more than one hour later than your original departure and has you on the ground, no later than two hours after your scheduled time of arrival. If it achieves this, no compensation is available.

If you do not fall into either of those categories, what are your compensation rights? Can you use another plane, train, or automobile at Ryanair’s expense?

This is where it gets tricky.

The regulators of the aviation industry, both here and in the UK, have differing views.

On Wednesday, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in Britain launched an enforcement action against Ryanair for “persistently misleading passengers with inaccurate information regarding their rights in respect of its recent cancellations”.

The action was implemented under the EU261/2004 flight compensation regulation.

CAA’s chief executive Andrew Haines said: “Michael O’Leary stated that Ryanair was not obliged to reroute passengers on airlines other than Ryanair.”

This is where the CAA believes Ryanair has misled customers as to their rights.

According to Article 8.1 of EU 261, which covers the right to reimbursement or rerouting, passengers can be offered a choice to reroute. The article describes it as: “Rerouting, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity or rerouting, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at a later date at the passenger’s convenience, subject to availability of seats.”

Michael O’Leary
Michael O’Leary

However, the CAA’s counterpart in Ireland, the Commission of Aviation Regulation (CAR), said: “We encourage Ryanair to use other airlines, but we cannot require them to.” The CAR argues EU 261 is open to interpretation.

So, back to snakes and ladders, how do you answer?

Let’s consult a lawyer.

Coby Benson, flight delay legal manager at Bott & Co solicitors in the UK, argues EU 261 is “black and white”.

“Nowhere in there does it say it is limited to the owner’s airline. There is no legal basis for this, whatsoever. I don’t think there is room for manoeuvre. It’s black and white, it’s not a grey area, which is evidenced by how quickly the CAA moved,” said Mr Benson.

Your move. Ryanair tests the law, why not you?

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