Ryanair rejects UK court jurisdiction on passenger compensation
Airline says it will only entertain claims through Irish courts
The Ryanair case could represent the biggest threat so far to the rights of passengers. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Ryanair has told lawyers acting for a woman claiming compensation that it will no longer accept the jurisdiction of the English courts, in a case that has raised concerns over air passenger delay rights.
Every year thousands of British passengers file legal claims against airlines in the UK courts, seeking compensation they believe they are owed under the EU delay rules.
Lawyers acting for a woman known only as Ms Menditta, who claimed against Ryanair after a delay in 2015, have been told by the airline that a clause in the airline’s terms and conditions requires disputes to be decided by the Irish courts.
In April, Liverpool county court will hear Ms Menditta’s case, but the airline will argue the claim must be brought in Ireland. If the court agrees, all Ryanair passengers could be forced to go through the Irish courts to chase denied compensation.
Nicholas Parkinson, a panel solicitor for the flight compensation firm FlightDelays.co.uk, who brought the claim on the passenger’s behalf, said the case could have huge ramifications for all air passengers if Ryanair is successful.
“If passengers were only able to bring a claim using Irish solicitors in the Irish courts, the vast majority of passengers living outside the Republic of Ireland will probably not bother to bring a claim at all – especially bearing in mind that most claims against Ryanair are only worth between £210 and £350.
“To our knowledge no other reputable airlines have a similar clause in their terms and conditions or, if there are, they do not attempt to rely on this clause.”
It is the latest in a series of legal challenges airlines have mounted against the EU rules that require them to compensate passengers for significant delays or cancellations, and overbooking.
Passengers can claim €125-€600 (£105-£500), depending on the event and length of the flight, in their country of origin. The airlines are exempt from having to pay out in certain circumstances – such as strikes and bad weather – but have fought a number of failed test cases to avoid other circumstances, particularly technical problems.
“If Ryanair were to win, this could allow all airlines to select any country within which passengers must bring their claim. There would be nothing stopping UK airlines from stipulating the country in which court proceedings must be commenced in their terms and conditions – meaning UK passengers would need to find a solicitor in Lithuania or Lebanon, or wherever else the airline chooses.”
Ryanair, which flew 117 million passengers last year, said it requires customers to submit flight disruption claims directly to it before engaging third party “claims chasers”.
“Claims chasers don’t like our terms and conditions, because they are designed solely to protect our customers, and ensure they receive 100 per cent of the compensation they are due.”
Last year the Civil Aviation Authority began enforcement action against Ryanair to make it pay compensation to thousands of delayed passengers after a European court of justice judgment. At the time the authority said it was not satisfied with the way the airline was handling compensation claims for disruption caused by routine technical faults. – (Guardian service)