EU court to rule on passenger case against Ryanair
The European Union's Court of Justice will this week decide on a landmark case involving Ryanair and passenger compensation rights. The case could have major implications for the European aviation sector if airspace is closed in future due to natural events such as volcanic eruptions.
Denise McDonagh, of Terenure, Dublin, sued Ryanair in the Swords District Court in 2010. She had been due to fly from Faro, Portugal, to Dublin on April 17, 2010.
But Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull erupted in March that year. Swathes of European airspace were closed from April 15 to April 23, grounding flights.
The Irish Aviation Authority deemed the airspace closure was due to "extraordinary circumstances". That precluded passengers from seeking compensation under Article 7 of a European regulation that can come into force in relation to flight delays, denial of boarding and cancellations.
But Ms McDonagh claimed that between April 17 and April 24, Ryanair did not, however, provide her with a level of care as set out in Article 9 of that same EU regulation. That states that care and assistance must be provided by an airline in the event a flight has been delayed, even due to extraordinary circumstances. This cover extends to hotel accommodation.
Ms McDonagh claimed Ryanair was in breach of contract for failing to provide that assistance. She sought compensation totalling €1,129 from the carrier to cover those costs.
Ryanair has argued that the closure of airspace went beyond extraordinary circumstances and that it shouldn't be liable for associated passenger costs.
It maintains that the relevant EU law should be interpreted in such a way that airlines aren't obliged to provide care if the circumstances go beyond extraordinary circumstances. The carrier also insists that its rights under articles of the Montreal Convention, that covers international passenger air travel entitlements, could have been violated.
The District Court wants the Court of Justice to rule if the volcanic explosion went beyond extraordinary circumstances, and if so, what the subsequent liability for airlines is for duty of care.