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Which compensation do EU rules provide in which cases?

RyanairRyanair’s miscalculation of the planning of its pilots' holidays will cost the airline €53 million ($63 billion). In the period September 11-October 22 the carrier has canceled 40-50 flights per day, implying a total of 1.900-2,100 cancelations. Approximately 400,000 passengers will be affected.

Some travelers have complained about vacation plans that have been ruined just 24 hours before takeoff. Others have tweeted about being stuck in remote airports, left waiting for a flight home for up to 3 days.

Ryanair has published a list of canceled flights by week. You can check here whether your flight will be affected. If so, you will have 2 options:

Credit cards1. Apply for a refund
This is only a realistic option for those who did not rent accommodation for a vacation unless they will not face cancelation penalties when they will cancel the rent, which would be very unusual.

2. Change your cancelled flight for free.
Option 2 will be subject to seat availability, while that will be low in the weeks to come. The British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said: “Regulation EC261 requires Ryanair to offer passengers on cancelled flights alternative travel options, including flying with a different airline.”

But carriers including Ryanair are not used to observe the law, so they will not be impressed by the CAA’s advices. What’s more, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has explicitly said: “We will not pay for flights on other airlines.” So Ryanair will not comply with the EU regulation.

In the UK, passengers who are not satisfied with an airline’s decision to reject a claim for compensation, or who get no response within 8 weeks, can take their complaint to the CAA. According to the British consumer watchdog Which? carriers are in the right in almost half of cases (47%). Thus, in 53% of cases passengers are in the right.

However, these are averages and the statistics vary across carriers. But in particular some low cost airlines have an alarmingly high percentage of decisions against them. The CAA advised Norwegian Air to pay up in no less than 83% of cases, Vueling in 79% and Ryanair in 77% of cases.

Below you will find a concise overview of which compensation is applicable in which cases. A table follows that shows for 18 airlines the number of flights to UK airports that were delayed more than 3 hours, the share of complaints where the CAA advised the carrier to pay, and the percentage of cases where the airline still refused to pay.

Norwegian and Vueling followed the advices in most cases and still refused to pay up in 7% and 4% of cases, respectively. Ryanair was more stubborn and still refused to pay up in 19% of cases.

Ryanair says it will be complying with EU Regulation 261/2004 in the weeks to come. This is most likely a lie. If it will turn out to be true, it would not only be a remarkable break with the past, but also with Michael O’Leary’s recent statement that Ryanair will not pay for rebooking customers on other airlines.

EU Regulation 261/2004 provides compensation for passengers if their flight:
- Departs from an EU airport
- Arrives at an EU airport from outside the EU with an EU carrier
- Is cancelled or delayed for more than 3 hours

Compensation is fixed based on the length of your flight:
€250 up to 1,500 km
€400 between 1,500 and 3,500 km
€600 over 3,500km

Thus, the regulation also applies to non-EU airlines departing from an EU airport. Passengers have no right to compensation in the event of extraordinary circumstances. The Court of Justice of the European Union has clarified this term through a number of rulings.

Table. How carriers deal with compensation requests

Flights to UK airports delayed by more than 3 hours in 2016 (a) % of complaints where the CAA advised the airline to pay compensation(b) % of cases where the airline still refused to pay compensation (b)
American Airlines 229 70 29
British Airways 1,166 48 13
easyjet 1,513 39 24
Emirates 19 60 74
Flybe 511 26 15
Iberia 11 73 3
Jet2 166 27 35
KLM 20 29 15
Lufthansa 20 43 24
Monarch 129 53 8
Norwegian 205 83 7
Ryanair 800 77 19
Thomas Cook 96 41 13
Thomson Airways 233 69 17
United Airlines 140 50 42
Virgin Atlantic 72 29 13
Vueling 103 79 4
Wizz Air 107 55 20

(a) Data for whole of 2016 collated by the CAA.
(b) Data from the CAA’s list of complaints specifically about EC 261 legislation (delay, denied boarding and cancellations) in the year up to August 2016.

Tags: Ryanair, flight delays, EU compensation rules

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