Millions of airline passengers may be eligible to claim compensation over flight delays after Ryanair lost a test case over the issue on Friday.
Ryanair argued that passengers had only two years to lodge claims because it had inserted a clause to that effect in its small print. Manchester County Court in England ruled that Ryanair’s action was invalid and passengers had six years in which to lodge claims.
Ryanair plans to appeal, saying the six-year rule is “unnecessary and unreasonable”.
The Supreme Court of England and Wales ruled last year that delayed passengers had six years to lodge claims. Ryanair saw it differently, contending that passengers who book with it accept its terms and conditions – and therefore the claim limit should be two years.
Not so, the court has ruled. The time period is six years.
Lawyers say the Irish airline could be liable to pay out about GBP 610 million (AUD 1300 million) after losing the test case but Ryanair described this figure as “absurd”.
Irish news site BreakingNews quoted a Ryanair spokesperson as saying: “Firstly, since less than 1% of Ryanair flights are delayed over three hours and since more than 90% of passengers make a valid claim within Ryanair’s contractual two-year period, there is a tiny potential group of passengers who may wish to submit a claim between two and six years after the date of their flight delay.
“Accordingly, Ryanair estimates that even if its appeal in this matter is ultimately unsuccessful, its potential liability will not be material and is likely to be less than EUR 5 millon (AUD 7.78 million).
The airline’s reasoning and computation runs like this:
“Less than half of 1% of Ryanair flights are delayed by over three hours (273m @ 0.3% = 0.81m).
“More than half of this figure will be covered by exceptional circumstances rules (weather, strikes etc.) (0.81m @40% = 324,000).
“More than 90% of customers who claim, do so within the contracted two-year claim period (324,000 @6% = 19,500).
“The maximum exposure for this 4 year period 2009 – 2012 is therefore 19,500 customers @ €250 = €4.895m or less than €5m.”
The case was brought by lawyers for six delayed passengers who tried to claim compensation for delayed flights after five years and eight months, which Ryanair contested.
After a lengthy legal battle, Judge Platts has ruled that Ryanair’s rules breach European Flight Delay law.
Written by Peter Needham