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LUXEMBOURG: The European Court of Justice yesterday ordered Irish airline Ryanair to compensate passengers whose travel plans were thrown into chaos by the 2010 eruption of an Icelandic volcano, in a ruling with implications for the entire industry.
The airline immediately warned that ticket prices even for budget travellers will rise to offset costs from any future extreme events that the company previously considered to be “acts of God” for which it was not financially responsible.
“Today’s decision will materially increase the cost of flying across Europe and consumer airfares will increase as airlines will be obliged to recover the cost of these claims from their customers,” Ryanair said. The company insisted that “defective European regulation does not allow us to recover such costs from the governments or unions who are responsible for over 95 percent of flight delays in Europe.”
The Luxembourg-based court was ruling on a case brought by an Irish citizen that has implications for travellers on all carriers in European Union airspace should unforseen events wreak havoc with schedules in the future.
The judges said that when flights are cancelled in “extraordinary” circumstances such as the eruption, which sent a giant ash cloud floating across Western Europe and beyond, even low-cost airlines had an “obligation” to lodge and feed passengers before they could finish their journey.
Denise McDonagh brought the case to a Dublin court after her flight from Faro, Portugal to Dublin was cancelled. She had a five-day wait before flights between Ireland and the rest of the continent were re-established and a seven-day delay before she got home.