Ryanair backs down on passenger compensation
Budget airline Ryanair today ended its defiance of EU regulations by agreeing to fully compensate its passengers caught up in the ash-cloud crisis.
Yesterday the no-frills carrier's chief executive Michael O'Leary said he would only reimburse travellers the original price of their air fare and no more.
But today the airline said that it would comply with the regulations under which EU airlines are required to reimburse the "reasonable receipted expenses of disrupted passengers".
Mr O'Leary said today: "The events of the last seven days, under which Europe's airlines were prevented from flying by the closure of European airspace, highlight how absurd and discriminatory the EU261 regulations are towards Europe's airlines."
He went on: "While competitor ferry, coach and train operators are obliged to reimburse passengers reasonable expenses, this reimbursement is limited to the ticket price paid to those operators.
"Yet the airlines are required by regulation to meet potentially unlimited expenses, in circumstances where there has been a catastrophic closure of European airspace over the past seven days, as EU governments and regulators wrongly applied a blanket ban on flights over European airspace."
Mr O'Leary continued: "Ryanair has long campaigned for these reimbursements under passenger rights legislation to be limited to the ticket price paid in the same way they are for train, coach and ferry operators.
"We will continue to work through the European Low Fares Airlines Association and other industry bodies to persuade the European Commission and the European Parliament to alter this regulation to put this reasonable limit on these reimbursement claims."
Speaking on BBC News, Mr O'Leary stressed that the airline was "reimbursing, not compensating".
He went on: "If a claim is reasonable, it will be reimbursed. If it isn't, it won't."
He added that he estimated the airports' shutdown will have cost Ryanair about €30m to €40m.
Earlier, Ryanair's view on the EU regulations had been supported by Mike Carrivick, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives, which represents more than 90 airlines.
He said the regulations were "unfair" and were never intended to cover cases such as the ash cloud crisis.
Britain's Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said: "I welcome the revised statement by Ryanair confirming that they will meet their obligations to passengers.
"The [British] Government and the Civil Aviation Authority have told Ryanair in the strongest terms that they are expected to pay the reasonable accommodation and food costs of stranded passengers, and that they should seek to get them back to Britain as soon as possible.
"This applies to all EU airlines, and I will be equally forthright in defending passenger rights with any airline that seeks to avoid its obligations."