Cancellations and compensation: what rights do Ryanair passengers have?

Strike-hit Ryanair has announced it will refund passengers whose flights are cancelled - as it is obliged to do - but will not pay out compensation, citing "extraordinary circumstances".

Cancellations and compensation: what rights do Ryanair passengers have?
Photos: AFP

However, the budget airline is being taken to court by a Belgian consumer group, who say under EU legislation passengers are entitled to between 250 and 600 euros ($285-$690) in compensation payouts.

A ruling this year by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled against another airline which cited “extraordinary circumstances” over a strike by aircrew, allowing passengers to claim.

Here are some of the key points:

– Which flights are covered by the EU legislation? –

All flights taking off from airports in the “Community Space” of European Union countries, plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, irrespective of the airline's nationality or the flight's destination.

For flights arriving from outside the “Community Space”, only those operated by an airline from within the zone and a destination within the zone are covered.

– When is a flight late? –

For flights of less than 1,500 kilometres: two hours.

For flights of between 1,500 kms and 3,500 kms (930 miles and 2,100 miles) and all flights within the Community area of more than 1,500 kms: three hours.

For flights over 3,500 kms: four hours.

– What measures should be taken? –

Passengers must be rerouted on another flight or have their fare reimbursed by the airline if they refuse that option.

They are also entitled to compensation, except if passengers are informed two weeks before the departure time, if a seat is offered on board another flight at a time close to that initially scheduled, or if the carrier proves that the cancellation is due to “extraordinary circumstances”, such as a surprise strike by air traffic controllers.

– How much compensation? –

For flights less than 1,500 kms: 250 euros.

For flights between 1,500 kms and 3,500 kms and all flights within the Community area more than 1,500 kms: 400 euros.

For flights over 3,500 kms: 600 euros.

Depending on the length of delay, the airline must also offer refreshments, food, communication, accommodation and transport between the hotel and airport.

However, a clause specifies that the airline may not pay compensation if it proves the delay or cancellation was due to “extraordinary circumstances”.

The regulation lists, in particular, cases of political instability, weather conditions, security risks or unforeseen failures that may affect flight safety.

– Is a strike an 'extraordinary circumstance'? –

A wildcat strike by airline staff against a restructuring cannot be cited as an “extraordinary circumstance”, according to a ruling by the European Court of Justice in April, which settled a case involving the German airline TUIfly.

The company refused to pay compensation to passengers on cancelled flights following a strike by its aircrew in October 2016, citing the “extraordinary circumstance” clause.

In order to qualify for the clause, the event must be out of the airline's control by its nature or origin.

In the TUIfly case, the court ruled that the passengers should be compensated as the strike was a direct consequence of a social policy of the company and that the strike in question was not outside the company's control.

SEE ALSO: What you need to know about the Ryanair strike



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UPDATE: Ryanair passenger jet makes emergency landing in Berlin over ‘fake bomb threat’

Polish police said Monday they were investigating a fake bomb threat that forced a Ryanair passenger plane travelling from Dublin to Krakow to make an emergency landing in Berlin.

UPDATE: Ryanair passenger jet makes emergency landing in Berlin over 'fake bomb threat'
A Ryanair flight making an emergency landing

The flight from Dublin to Krakow made the unexpected diversion after a reported bomb threat, German newspaper Bild Zeitung said.

“We were notified by the Krakow airport that an airport employee received a phone call saying an explosive device had been planted on the plane,” said regional police spokesman, Sebastian Glen.

“German police checked and there was no device, no bomb threat at all. So we know this was a false alarm,” he told AFP on Monday.

“The perpetrator has not been detained, but we are doing everything possible to establish their identity,” Glen added, saying the person faces eight years in prison.

With 160 people on board, the flight arrived at the Berlin Brandenburg airport shortly after 8 pm Sunday, remaining on the tarmac into early Monday morning.

A Berlin police spokesperson said that officers had completed their security checks “without any danger being detected”.

“The passengers will resume their journey to Poland on board a spare aeroplane,” she told AFP, without giving more precise details for the alert.

The flight was emptied with the baggage also searched and checked with sniffer dogs, German media reported.

The passengers were not able to continue their journey until early Monday morning shortly before 4:00 am. The federal police had previously classified the situation as harmless. The Brandenburg police are now investigating the case.

Police said that officers had completed their security checks “without any danger being detected”.

“The Ryanair plane that made an emergency landed reported an air emergency and was therefore immediately given a landing permit at BER,” airport spokesman Jan-Peter Haack told Bild.

“The aircraft is currently in a safe position,” a spokeswoman for the police told the newspaper.

The incident comes a week after a Ryanair flight was forced to divert to Belarus, with a passenger — a dissident journalist — arrested on arrival.

And in July last year, another Ryanair plane from Dublin to Krakow was forced to make an emergency landing in London after a false bomb threat.

READ ALSO: Germany summons Belarus envoy over forced Ryanair landing