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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Ryanair to face UK regulator action over passenger compensation

Civil Aviation Authority says airline should have compensated customers after summer strikes by staff

Passengers leave a Ryanair aircraft at the airport in Modlin near Warsaw, Poland. The carrier is set to face action from CAA. Reuters
Passengers leave a Ryanair aircraft at the airport in Modlin near Warsaw, Poland. The carrier is set to face action from CAA. Reuters

Ryanair is facing “enforcement action” by Britain’s regulator after the discount carrier rejected passenger compensation claims linked to flight disruption from strikes this summer.

The walkouts didn’t amount to extraordinary circumstances and Ryanair should therefore have compensated customers in line with European Commission regulations, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said on Wednesday, adding that it warned the carrier at the time that it wasn’t exempt. The regulator didn’t say what “enforcement” could entail.

However, while the CAA appealed to Ryanair to change its stance, a regulator spokesman said the next move will be to take the airline to court to ensure its compliance.

Europe’s biggest discount carrier had to cancel hundreds of flights earlier this year after employees staged walkouts as part of a dispute over pay and working conditions. While passengers were able to switch to other services or get a refund, according to Bloomberg, European Union rules specify further payments may also have to be made depending on the circumstances.

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The CAA said it has terminated an agreement under which people could escalate claims to another body it oversees. “Passengers with an existing claim will now have to await the outcome of the CAA’s enforcement action,” the regulator said. Calls to Ryanair outside of normal business hours weren’t immediately returned.

Passengers claiming compensation will not have to await the outcome of the enforcement action, the CAA said.

Enforcement action is when the CAA seeks legal undertakings from operators to ensure they change their policies and comply with the law, Reuters said.

Ryanair is no stranger to confrontation, paying almost $600,000 as recently as last month for the release of a Boeing jet seized by French authorities in Bordeaux in a dispute over state subsidies.

The CAA announcement comes after the Irish carrier on Tuesday said it reached an agreement on wages and benefits with the main German pilot union that will ensure there is no repeat of strikes that disrupted flights in the country before last Christmas.

The VC union, which was responsible for Ryanair's first ever pilot strike a year ago, said the two sides planned to sign a full collective labour agreement (CLA) by next March and no industrial action would be taken before then.

Ryanair has made significant progress in union talks in recent weeks and has said it hopes to come to agreements with unions in all its main markets before the end of March.

Europe's largest budget airline agreed a deal with a cabin crew union in Germany last month.

All pilots based in Germany will be subject to contracts under German rather than Irish law, VC said.

Germany was the last major market where Ryanair did not have an agreement with pilots.

"While it is not a full CLA yet, this is clear progress by Ryanair and the VC union, which has been one of the more troublesome unions to date," Goodbody airlines analyst Mark Simpson said.