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Fewer than 500 Ryanair passengers awarded compensation by complaints body in 2017

Only 14% of cancellation and delay claims have led to a payout

With Ryanair saying it won’t pay compensation for its latest round of cancellations, passengers will have to take their claims to Aviation ADR, the airline’s dispute resolution handler. Yet new Which? Travel research shows most passengers will wait a long time to get their money.  

Aviation ADR received over 3,600 EU261 complaints about Ryanair in 2017, but just 496 passengers were awarded compensation. The vast majority of complaints were still outstanding at the end of year, suggesting many passengers were waiting months to get what they were owed.

For the first quarter of 2018 the figures are even worse. Aviation ADR received over 2,400 flight delay and cancellation complaints about Ryanair. In the same period just 282 passengers were awarded compensation and 98 were told they were entitled to nothing, meaning thousands were still waiting for a decision.

Use our guide to flight delays and compensation to find out what you might be due and how to claim. 

Ryanair cancellations and compensation

Ryanair has claimed that the latest round of cancellations, caused by staff strikes, are an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ and that its passengers aren’t due compensation. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said this is incorrect and that Ryanair has to pay. Yet the CAA has no power to rule on individual claims. Since 2016, it has encouraged airlines to join schemes run by private arbitration firms, such as Aviation ADR.

Aviation ADR provides arbitration services for Ryanair, Virgin Atlantic, Wizz and many smaller airlines. British Airways, Easyjet, Tui and Thomas Cook are all with a different company, CEDR.

CEDR resolved many more EU261 cases than Aviation ADR in 2017. Some 818 BA passengers were awarded EU261 compensation (it received 1,925 complaints), Easyjet 765  (3,220 complaints), Thomas Cook 274 (1,030 complaints) and Tui 735 (1,783 complaints). In the first quarter of 2018, the percentage of complaints resolved by CEDR has significantly increased.

Lots of claims and not enough staff

In response to our findings, Aviation ADR told us that of the 3,628 Ryanair complaints it received in 2017, some were refused (the arbitration bodies are allowed to reject complaints if the customer has not complained to the airline first or if they are otherwise out of their scope). Others were discontinued, either because the passenger did not provide all the information needed or they failed to follow up the complaint. We looked into this and found that they’d refused 412 complaints and a further 237 were discontinued.

However, Aviation ADR said that a ‘very large’ number of the remaining complaints were ‘put on hold’ because they had been submitted by claims-management companies, who are in dispute with Ryanair. It said: ‘Given the ongoing litigation between (claims solicitor) Bott & Co and Ryanair… the claims management companies have agreed that these claims should be put on hold pending the final outcome of the court case.’

Bott & Co doesn’t accept that it has ‘agreed’ that the claims should be put on hold. It says, ‘we felt that the claims should be looked at, however Aviation ADR have currently refused to do so, because Ryanair won’t deal with claims presented by solicitors.’ It confirmed that it had made about 100 claims through Aviation ADR in 2017, ‘but we never got a response on any of them.’ It also said that it had another 10,000 complaints it had been planning to send, ‘but they told us to wait because they wouldn’t consider the claims whilst Bott & Co v Ryanair was ongoing.’

Aviation ADR does say that it has responded to the high numbers of Ryanair complaints since the end of 2017. It says: ‘we have significantly increased staff headcount to take account of both increased ADR volumes and unusual spikes in complaints.’

Struggle to get the facts

In January 2018 Which? Travel made a freedom of information (FOI) request to the CAA to try and obtain the data on the number of complaints resolved by Aviation ADR and CEDR. The CAA failed to provide these figures but we have since obtained them from a FOI request made by complaints expert Helen Dewdney, from The Complaining Cow.

Despite the issues revealed by Which? Travel’s investigation and Aviation ADR’s response, the CAA continues to insist that the system is working well. It cites the figure of 33,000 complaints received by the two main complaints handlers. It did not provide figures for how many of those 33,000 complaints had been resolved.

It also said: ‘consumers will soon have the opportunity to seek a review of their case by an independent assessor, if they consider that their complaint has not been handled properly by the ADR provider.’

Ryanair told us that it ‘fully complies with the UK ADR’s rules and deadlines and it’s committed to the ADR process.  We encourage any passengers who are not satisfied with Ryanair’s own complaints resolution to take them to ADR for free and independent resolution instead of going to claims chasers, who often end up deducting up to 50% of compensation entitlement in excessive fees.’

Can you claim for Ryanair cancellations?

Yes. Aviation ADR has told Which? that it has been ruling in favour of consumers who’ve complained about Ryanair cancellations caused by internal strikes. 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”.’

But it added: ‘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.’

Passengers who have a flight cancelled with less than 15 days notice as a result of flight or cabin crew industrial action should complain to the airline first. If they do not receive a satisfactory response, they have little choice but to use Aviation ADR. Unlike with the claims solicitors, the process is free and Ryanair is legally obliged to comply with its decisions.

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