Ryanair has dropped a years-long legal battle with Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) after the low-cost airline refused to pay compensation to thousands of passengers who had their flights cancelled when Ryanair pilots staged a landmark walkout in 2018.
On Monday, it was revealed that the Irish budget carrier had decided not to pursue an appeal to Britain’s highest court, the Supreme Court, after a succession of lower courts all ruled that a strike by Ryanair’s own pilots could not be classed as ‘extraordinary circumstance’.
Following the strikes, passengers had sought compensation from Ryanair using Europe’s so-called EC261 denied boarding regulations which guarantee payouts of between €250 and €600 depending on the flight distance for cancelled flights or the arrival time in the case of delayed flights.
But airlines can generally avoid paying compensation under the EU passenger rights regulations if they can prove the cancellation or delay was the result of an ‘extraordinary circumstance’.
Courts across Europe have agreed with airlines that severe weather is an extraordinary circumstance while consistently finding that strike action by directly employed staff that is within the power of the airline to stop is an extraordinary circumstance.
Despite reams of case law, Ryanair pursued its legal case through the British court system after the CAA started enforcement action over the airline’s refusal to pay passengers on some of the 400 flights that were cancelled at short notice during the 2018 pilots’ strike.
Ryanair initially took the case to London’s High Court, where judges ruled in favour of the CAA. The airline then appealed to the Court of Appeal and again lost its argument but applied and won permission to appeal a third and final time to the Supreme Court.
In a statement, Ryanair said confirmed on Monday that it had discontinued its court battle after reaching an agreement with the CAA to drop the matter following a recent ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU on union-led strikes.
This approach, a spokesperson said, would ensure “a uniform level of passenger rights across the EU and the UK.”
The CAA said passengers impacted by the 2018 pilot’s strike should now submit a compensation claim to Ryanair and encouraged all eligible customers to do so.
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.