Ryanair has been ordered to pay an eight-year-old girl £3,500 (US $4,240) in compensation after she was scalded by hot tea when a flight attendant allegedly failed to secure the lid on the cup.
The child’s father, who was sat several rows behind the other members of his family on the flight from Venice to London Stanstead, was suddenly aware of what had happened when he heard his daughter scream out in pain.
He jumped up from his seat and whisked his daughter to the lavatory to douse her in cold water. The flight attendants incorrectly offered ice to treat the burn but the child’s father rejected the offer.
“Fortunately I have done first aid courses and knew you shouldn’t put ice on a burn,” he said. “She was in complete shock. I then had to change her clothes in view of the other passengers and put her in a blanket and calm her down.”
The cabin crew then provided cooling pads but the family says Ryanair offered no further medical treatment either in the air or on their arrival in London. Describing the experience as “horrendous”, the child’s father says he believes the crew lacked the experience to deal with the situation.
Back home, the child had to have burn dressings changed daily for five days but Ryanair refused to accept responsibility for the accident.
Lawyers for the airline claim the girl was the “author of her own misfortune” and as such, the famously frugal low-cost airline said it did not owe her any compensation. The family contacted a solicitor who then pursued a claim under the Montreal Convention which makes airlines liable for most accidents that occur on their aircraft.
“This case centred on whether the lid of the cup had been properly secured by the cabin crew, and the grandmother was absolutely sure it had not been,” commented Anne Thomson from Hudgell Solicitors.
“We alleged the consequences of the crews’ error were that a child was injured and experienced severe pain and shock through no fault of her own.”
Ryanair insisted that its crew had securely placed the lid on the cup and it was, in fact, the family who removed the lid and caused the hot tea to spill. Eventually, however, the two sides started negotiations to settle the claim while Ryanair continued to deny liability.
In the end, the court approved a payout of £3,500, although the child’s father says he wanted Ryanair to accept responsibility for the accident. The airline maintains it was not at fault.
If Ryanair had been found to be liable for the accident, the payout could have been far higher. Following a similar accident onboard a Turkish Airlines flight in 2017, the airline was ordered to pay a burns victim €65,000 in compensation after a flight attendant accidentally spilt hot tea on the leg of a 13-year-old boy.
Airlines have previously tried to argue that they should not be held responsible for accident claims under the Montreal Convention unless it’s associated with an aviation hazard like turbulence but the European Court of Justice has clarified that airlines can only escape liability if they prove the passenger acted negligently.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.