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Watch out for sneaky Ryanair if your flight’s delayed

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
Feb 22, 2016

We all love to hate Ryanair – we rubbish them, but keep using them.

The airline’s straight-talking – and massively wealthy – boss, Michael O’Leary, may have had a revelation that perhaps it’s good business sense after all not to be rude to passengers, but the carrier is as sneaky as ever when it comes to cash.

My advice is to keep a canny eye out to make sure you’re not caught out.


Flying back from Italy with Ryanair

At the weekend I flew back with my family from Italy. 

As we and the rest of the passengers for flight FR465 from Turin waited to board the bus to take us to the plane, we were suddenly turned back.

There was a technical problem with the flight. There would be a delay, we were all told, of at least two hours.

In the end, to cut a very long story short, the airline flew out another aircraft from London and we returned to Stansted 219 minutes late.  

That timing is important – it’s the time of arrival at your destination that matters, NOT the time you were delayed taking off.

Ryanair kindly furnished all passengers with a €5 token for food and drink while we waited for the new flight home.

And they quickly sent out emails of apology, which seemed like good customer service.


Deceptive service

Except that these emails were incredibly deceptive.

One started with the usual guff about being sorry and how nearly all their flights are bang on time etc, etc. 

It then referred to events ‘beyond our control’ that can affect flights; things like ‘bad weather’ and ‘strike action’.


A hurricane would be deemed 'outside the airline's control'

You then find attached a pdf you can give to your insurance company as proof of the delay! The clear implication being that if you want compensation, you know where you can get it. Don’t come asking us!

Of course, we should all know that if you claim on insurance, the next time you want cover, you will almost certainly find your premium has rocketed. So, we don’t want to claim unless we can’t avoid it. 

In fact, Ryanair, know fully well that we don’t need to claim on insurance  because they have to pay!

The second email again apologises and spells out the ‘2 options available to you’. One is a refund if you choose not to travel and the other is a free transfer to another Ryanair flight. 

At the bottom of these options (the only two available to you, remember) there is a link to passengers’ rights under EU regulations. This leads to a stodgy page of densely worded legalese.

What this says, and what Ryanair certainly knows very well but decides not to make clear, is that if passengers are delayed by more than three hours and the flight is under 1,500 km in the EU (which Turin to London is) then they are entitled to fixed compensation of €250 per passenger regardless of what their ticket cost.

The only get out to this is if the airline can claim ‘exceptional circumstances’ and up until a couple of years ago they would certainly do that if there was a technical problem. 

But, again as Ryanair well knows, a technical problem no longer counts as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ as defined by the courts. This was determined by a court ruling a couple of years ago.  

It was decided, in effect, that technical faults are part and parcel of operating aircraft and so can’t be classed as ‘exceptional.’

Perhaps Ryanair haven’t caught up with this yet, even though the ‘technical fault’ excuse being used as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ was ruled out by Europe’s Supreme Court in 2014.


When it comes to flights, it pays to know your rights

So, I think the message here is clear – if you’re delayed, don’t be fobbed off.

We’ve got our claim in with Ryanair (for four passengers, so 4 x €250, or €1,000), despite their misleading emails. 

We’ll see if they try and squirm their way out of paying; or accept that they have to play by the rules – even if they don’t like making them crystal clear to passengers. 

I’ll update. 

Meanwhile, if you’ve had a problem with an airline, do let us now here at A Spokesman Said.

And you can check out your rights on delayed and cancelled flights in full in our guide here.


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