Ryanair changes course and will put passengers on rival airlines

Airline in significant U-turn amid rolling cancellations due to rostering issues

A Ryanair jet  comes in to land   at Dublin airport. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

A Ryanair jet comes in to land at Dublin airport. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

 

Ryanair has been forced into a significant U-turn in its treatment of passengers caught up in its rolling series of flight cancellations and is now willing to book stranded passengers on other airlines.

For much of this week Ryanair staff - including its chief executive Michael O’Leary - insisted the airline would not be booking its stranded passengers on flights from rival companies.

However, it has now written to Britain’s aviation regulator confirming it will do so if necessary.

The airline acted after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK wrote to Ryanair reminding it that under EU Directive 261 - the rules governing air passengers’ rights - any airline which cancels a flight must offer passengers “re-routing under comparable transport conditions to their final destination at the earliest opportunity”.

“Following an intervention from the CAA, Ryanair has confirmed to the UK regulator that it will reroute passengers on other airlines,” a CAA spokesman said.

The spokesman told The Irish Times the CAA would be monitoring the situation closely to make sure Ryanair offered passengers the best rerouting options and it said if it did not fulfil its legal obligations, it would consider enforcement action.

A Ryanair spokesman said any customers whose flights have been cancelled have been contacted. “We advise customers to liaise with our customer service team so that we can take all necessary steps to re-accommodate them.”

Ryanair’s apparent confusion as to the meaning of EU261 appears to have been mirrored in the offices of the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) in the Republic, which said it did believe the line meant the airline had a legal obligation to put passengers on planes belonging to other airlines.

A commission spokesman said that while Ryanair’s responsibility was “to ensure it reroutes passengers”, the EU regulations do “not require Ryanair to reroute on other carriers, but they may choose to”.

The spokesman said the commission was standing over its advice to passengers to “stick with Ryanair” because under the regulations, if they do not, “they potentially lose their entitlement to care and assistance.”