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29 Apr 2021

High Court tells Ryanair to compensate passengers for cancelled flights after 2018 pilot strikes

Passengers may be due hundreds of pounds in compensation - but the airline says it will appeal

The High Court has told Ryanair that it has to compensate passengers whose flights were cancelled due to 2018 pilot strikes.

Ryanair argued that the strikes were an 'extraordinary circumstance' and therefore out of its control. This was despite the fact that the official adjudication scheme, AviationADR, ruled that strikes by its own employees were its responsibility and it had to pay.

Ryanair simply left the adjudication scheme and, in December 2018, the CAA announced enforcement action against the airline. It said passengers were due compensation of up to u20ac400, depending on the length of the flight. Today (29 April) the High Court agreed.

The CAA statement

Paul Smith, director at the CAA, said: 'Ryanair has refused to pay compensation to passengers affected by industrial action taken by its pilots in 2018.

'We believed that these passengers were in fact protected by law and that Ryanair could not claim its delayed and cancelled flights were 'extraordinary circumstances'. The High Court has today agreed with our interpretation of the law.

'We are committed to protecting the rights of air passengers and are determined to ensure all airlines comply with their legal obligations.'

Ryanair said strikes weren't its fault

An estimated 200,000 people were affected by the strikes, which saw hundreds of planes grounded. At the time Ryanair argued that: 'Courts in Germany, Spain and Italy have already ruled that strikes are an 'exceptional circumstance' and EU261 compensation does not apply. We expect the UK CAA and courts will follow this precedent.'

Strikes by air traffic controllers and other external employees are considered an 'extraordinary circumstance', so no compensation is due. However, a European Court of Justice ruling in April 2018 had already said that strikes by employees over working conditions were within the airline's control.

Could passengers now claim compensation?

At the time AviationADR told us that complaints from customers affected by the strikes were 'on hold' until the court ruling was made. This could mean that those people, and others who haven't yet claimed, are entitled to compensation.

However the CAA has warned that the airline could still appeal. It said: 'As Ryanair has the right to seek to appeal today's judgment, affected customers should await further information before pursuing their claims.'

Ryanair later told us that it would be fighting the verdict. It said: 'We have instructed our lawyers to appeal this decision and we are confident that it will be successfully overturned.'