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Ryanair loses ECJ case on reimbursing costs for stranded passengers

The court ruling could have wide-ranging implications for air carriers and their passengers.

Empty Ryanair check-in desks at East Midlands Airport during the volcanic eruption in 2010.
Empty Ryanair check-in desks at East Midlands Airport during the volcanic eruption in 2010.
Image: Lewis Stickley/PA Archive/Press Association Images

THE EUROPEAN COURT OF Justice has ruled that Ryanair must reimburse passengers for the costs they incurred while stranded by the volcano eruption in Iceland in 2010.

The court ruled against Ryanair saying that air carriers must provide care to passengers whose flight has been cancelled due to “extraordinary circumstances” but it said that carriers are not obliged to pay statutory compensation.

“The air carrier is obliged to fulfil that obligation [to provide care] even when the cancellation of the flight is caused by extraordinary circumstances, that is to say circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken,” the court said.

The court ruled that Ryanair was obliged to pay compensation to the Dublin woman Denise McDonagh who took legal action against the low-cost airline after it refused to reimburse her for costs incurred as a result of the Icelandic ash could in April 2010.

McDonagh was left stranded in Faro, Portugal as a result of the eruption of the the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland which led to closing of airspace over large parts of Europe between 15 and 22 April 2010.

She ran up costs of around €1,130 through meals, refreshments, accommodation and transport and sought compensation from Ryanair arguing that it was obliged to cover her costs.

Ryanair had cancelled around 9,400 flights during the eruption and refunded all of the passengers’ tickets, settling “reasonable expense claims” according to Bloomberg, but it refused some which were deemed “excessive”.

The court stated that when an air carrier has “failed to comply with its obligation to provide care to an air passenger” that passenger may obtain compensation for amounts which are “necessary, appropriate and reasonable”.

It said that defining this amount was a matter which is for the national court to assess.

2010: Ryanair’s profit takes off despite ash cloud

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Hugh O'Connell

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