Ryanair has lost an appeal after a passenger claimed compensation for ash cloud disruption.
Denise McDonagh from Terenure in Dublin took the action at the European Court of Justice after Ryanair refused to reimburse her for food and accommodation costs accrued during the 2010 volcano eruption in Iceland.
The European Court of Justice said today that airlines face an obligation to provide care, even in such “extraordinary circumstances” as the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which left millions of passengers stranded because it was too dangerous to fly through the ash clouds.
The court gave its opinion after Ms McDonagh was stranded in southern Portugal for a week during the crisis and demanded compensation of almost €1,130.
Ryanair has said it paid out €26.1m to stranded passengers but it has refused many claims, citing their “excessive” cost. The court said passengers can only claim “reasonable” costs.
Ryanair issued a statement warning of a hike in ticket prices as airlines were being made the “insurer of last resort” by the ruling.
It read: “Ryanair regrets the decision of the European Court which now allows passengers to claim for flight delays which are clearly and unambiguously outside of an airline’s control.
“When governments closed large swathes of European airspace unnecessarily in response to non-existent ’ash clouds’ over Ireland, the UK and continental Europe in 2010, the travel insurance companies escaped liability by claiming it was an ’act of God’.
“Today’s ruling by the European Court now makes the airlines the insurer of last resort even when in the majority of cases (such as ATC delays or national strikes in Europe) these delays are entirely beyond an airline’s control.
“Today’s decision will materially increase the cost of flying across Europe and consumer airfares will increase as airlines will be obliged to recover the cost of these claims from their customers, because the defective European regulation does not allow us to recover such costs from the governments or unions who are responsible for over 95% of flight delays in Europe.”