Summer time is here and no doubt you have scrimped and saved to get your butt on a plane to somewhere minus work, but plus fun and relaxation. Nothing is quite as relaxing as a holiday, right? Well, many people are currently quaking in their boots fearing that their holiday plans might be disrupted owing to strikes with budget airline Ryanair. With everything being online, it's hard to figure out what to do if your Ryanair flight is cancelled. However, worry thee not because we have done the research so you don't have to, because if your flight ends up cancelled you already have enough on your plate.
With travelling being stressful enough as it is, having your flight cancelled does —for want of a better phrase — add insult to injury. According to the consumer affairs editor of the Irish Times, your rights as a passenger are in fact protected by the E.U., thanks guys! And despite Brexit, this still covers UK passengers.
"Under EU Regulation 261 airlines must offer passengers affected by cancellations a full refund or a rerouting on the next available flight or at a later time that suits the passenger. If you opt for a refund the airline’s responsibility to you ends. If you ask to be put on the next available flight then the airline must provide care and assistance until you can be accommodated on an alternative flight."
So, your rights are technically protected but what do you do in the unfortunate eventuality that your flight is cancelled? Well, Ryanair themselves issued the following statement on their cancellations in late July, as reported by The Express: "All affected customers have been contacted by email and SMS text message (last Wednesday) and advised of their options of a full refund or free transfer on to the next available flight. All customers whose flights were cancelled on 25 Wednesday and 26 Thursday were re-accommodated on alternative flights or refunded, over the weekend.” This is supported by the advice on their website, which explains the various options open to you if your flight is cancelled.
The BBC also reports that if your outward flight is cancelled, you can ask for a refund on your return flight if you no longer plan to use it. In the same story, the BBC quote the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), in reference to a previous spate of cancellations, adding that "if Ryanair fails to offer a place on an alternative Ryanair flight within a reasonable timeframe then you have the right to be booked onto a different airline at no extra cost."
But are users entitled to any compensation? Speaking to the Express, Adam Ewart, founder and CEO of luggage shipping company Send My Bag had expert advice for affected passengers.
"Airlines often try and wriggle out of paying compensation due to the 'extraordinary circumstances' clause - unfortunately, industrial action is not considered an extraordinary circumstance."
Of the strikes on July 25 and 26, Sky quotes a spokesperson for the airline as saying: "Ryanair fully complies with all EU261 legislation, however as these flight cancellations were caused by extraordinary circumstances, no compensation is due. Under EU261 legislation, no compensation is payable when the union is acting unreasonably and totally beyond the airline’s control."
Meanwhile, the CAA countered back arguing that:
"We note that the recent industrial action is not by Ryanair's UK employees, but it is the view of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, taking account of previous court rulings, that when a flight cancellation is caused by strike action by the airline's employees, the airline is required to pay compensation to passengers in respect of the cancellation of the flight, if it has not warned passengers of the cancellation at least two weeks prior to the scheduled time of departure."
The Mirror reports that the European Court of Justice passed a ruling in early 2018 stating that "A 'wildcat strike' by flight staff… does not constitute an 'extraordinary circumstance.'" The newspaper also notes that the CAA encourages customers to apply for compensation under these terms regardless, though also adds that the airline has a clause in its contract with customers that they must sue for compensation personally, rather than via a legal resource, so that's something to keep in mind.