Challenge to Ryanair condition that Irish courts hear certain compensation cases

Sofia City Court has asked the ECJ to rule if the airline is forcing claimants to take their case in the Republic

A Bulgarian family  took their compensation case to  Sofia City Court, which Ryanair’s lawyers argued did not have jurisdiction to rule on the claim.  Photograph: Reuters/Eric Gaillard

A Bulgarian family took their compensation case to Sofia City Court, which Ryanair’s lawyers argued did not have jurisdiction to rule on the claim. Photograph: Reuters/Eric Gaillard

 

A Bulgarian family is challenging a Ryanair condition stating that only Irish courts can hear some disputes with passengers over compensation.

Ryanair’s conditions say that in some circumstances only Irish courts can hear disputes over EU rules for compensating passengers for cancelled or delayed flights.

Bulgarian judges have asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to rule on the condition after three members of a family, the Georgievis, sought compensation from Ryanair for a delayed flight.

The Georgievis flew from Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, to Rome on January 17th. Their flight was delayed for more than three hours after the Irish airline said there was too much snow at the airport. However, the passengers claimed that this was not the real reason for the delay and as a result they were entitled to €250 each under a European regulation EC 216/2004, which deals with compensating air travellers for hold-ups and cancellations.

They took their case to the Sofia City Court, which Ryanair’s lawyers argued did not have the jurisdiction to rule on the claim. The airline’s conditions of carriage state that such disputes should be brought before the Irish courts and that Irish law should apply.

The Georgievis’ law firm, MH Legal, argued previous European court rulings allowed the family to take its claim either in the country where the flight took off or the jurisdiction where it was scheduled to land.

Sofia City Court has asked the ECJ to rule on whether the clause is unfair and whether Ryanair is forcing claimants to take their case in the Republic regardless of a flight’s place of departure or arrival.

Terms of carriage

The ECJ is likely to hear the case early in 2019, and the parties are currently exchanging documents. Lawyers working on the case say that its outcome could potentially affect Ryanair’s terms of carriage in all EU countries.

Ryanair’s terms of carriage state that passengers are entitled to bring claims against the airline in their local court, “except that Irish courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction to claims under EU regulation 261/2004” where passengers have not complied with specific articles of the carrier’s terms and conditions.

Those articles deal with the airline’s compensation claims procedure. They require passengers to submit claims directly to Ryanair.

The articles only allow third parties to submit claims where they are the passenger’s legal guardians or they are acting for other passengers on the same booking.

EC 261 entitles passengers to €250 compensation for delays of two hours or more on flights up to 1,500 km. However, it does not apply where the cause is beyond the airline’s control.