RYANAIR has been accused of "fleecing its customers" after it emerged the airline is going to hit passengers with another €2 charge to offset its costs in meeting legal obligations to stranded travellers.
The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) said it was powerless to stop the airline imposing the new charge because there was nothing in EU law to prevent it.
Ryanair announced it would introduce a €2 levy per passenger for all bookings made from next Monday in order to fund its costs under EU Regulation 261 for looking after passengers affected by cancellations and delays.
The new charge comes on top of a raft of other charges levied by the self-proclaimed "low-cost" airline, such as €12 per person for paying by credit card for a return flight and €15 to €25 to check in a bag.
Michael Kilcoyne of the Consumers' Association of Ireland condemned the new charge.
"Nothing surprises me about Ryanair, they will use any opportunity to fleece their customers," he said.
Ryanair said that it had suffered costs of more than €100m last year from flight cancellations and the costs of providing care and compensation for 2.4 million disrupted passengers.
Most of the claims had arisen from the Icelandic volcano airspace closures last spring, snow closures of many EU airports before Christmas and 15 days of air traffic control strikes in Belgium, France, Germany and Spain last summer.
Ryanair called for the EU regulation to be amended to relieve airlines of the burden of care in cases where cancellations and delays were clearly not their fault.
"It is clearly unfair that airlines are obliged to provide meals and accommodation for passengers simply because governments close their airspace or air traffic controllers walk off the job, or incompetent airlines fail to clear their runways of snow," said Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara.
When the regulation was introduced airlines had been assured they could recover these costs from the parties who caused them, but this was not allowed.
"It's a crazy situation that travel insurance companies paid out nothing during the volcanic ash crisis last year because it was an 'Act of God', yet airlines were forced to pick up weeks of delays, cancellations, hotel and restaurant costs," Mr McNamara said.
Some Ryanair passengers are still battling to recover costs incurred during last year's Icelandic ash airport closures.
However, CAR said it had received a total of 759 valid complaints about airline care under the regulation last year, with 241 relating to Irish airports, though Ryanair was not the worst offender.