Ryanair warned of legal action if it fails to pay up
Under-fire carrier must refund passengers within seven days
Ryanair faces a raft of lawsuits if it fails to pay full compensation to passengers affected by the cancellation of thousands of flights.
The airline is now under unprecedented pressure from aviation authorities both here and in Britain.
It follows last Wednesday's cancellation of an extra 18,000 flights, affecting potentially 400,000 passengers.
The UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) last week threatened Ryanair with legal action, accusing the carrier of persistently misleading passengers about their rights.
Michael O'Leary's Ryanair moved to assure the Commission for Aviation Regulation here that additional staff had been employed to ensure that all affected passengers received refunds within seven working days. Additionally, it insisted that all claims for expenses and compensation would be dealt with within 28 working days.
Meanwhile, the Aviation Regulation Commissioner, Cathy Mannion, warned that it had the power to take legal action against the low-cost carrier if it failed to fully comply with its directives.
"It's a legal requirement for the airline to refund the money within seven days," she told the Sunday Independent.
"If they don't do that then we have enforcement powers, and we can issue a direction.
"Issues involving expenses and compensation take more time, and dealing with the issues within 28 days is not a legal requirement. But if a passenger doesn't hear from the airline within 28 days, or they're dissatisfied with the response they receive, they should come to us. At that point, we'll first verify that the passenger has a right to claim before approaching Ryanair.
"They'll be given an opportunity to respond, but ultimately if they don't do what we tell them, we'll issue a direction. If they don't comply with our direction, then the normal legal process kicks in. That is the very last step. Usually when we issue a directive, people abide by it."
Ryanair added to passenger woes by announcing the cancellation of 22 of its flights to and from Dublin for each week of its winter season. The airline first announced on Wednesday that it was cancelling a further 18,000 flights between November and March in a move that would hit an additional 400,000 customers. The news comes after up to 50 flights a day between mid-September and the end of October, affecting 315,000 customers.
The budget airline said the latest announcement, which will see it suspend 34 routes and make "schedule changes" to other routes, would affect "less than one flight per day".
It added that "less than 1pc of the 50 million customers Ryanair will carry this winter are affected".
These cancellations mean there is "no risk of further roster-related flight cancellations", according to the airline.