Ryanair Won't Compensate Hordes of Passengers Stranded by Strikes
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If you've booked a Ryanair flight that might be jeopardized by the looming strikes against the airline, we've got bad news for you: The company says it won't compensate you for those delays or cancellations — even though the law says they have to.
Ryanair pilots based in Ireland, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands have all voted to strike again on Friday, after Ryanair already admitted it canceled 1,000 flights affecting almost 200,000 customers in July. Some of those were caused by air-traffic-controller strikes and weather, but a large number were caused by Ryanair pilot and crew strikes.
The Telegraph reports that the threat of the new round of strikes has already led to 104 cancellations to and from Belgium, 22 to and from Sweden and 20 flights to and from Ireland — affecting at least 20,000 passengers. In addition, Ryanair's German pilots have voted to strike, though a date hasn't been announced yet. This will be the fifth strike by the Irish pilots union since July 12.
Affected passengers might think they're protected. After all, European Regulation 261/2004 requires that airlines compensate passengers for delays and cancellations, up to €600 ($695) per passenger per flight.
But Ryanair is refusing to compensate passengers for these strike-caused delays and cancellations. The airline is wrongfully claiming "under EU261 legislation, no compensation is payable when the union is acting unreasonably and totally beyond the airline’s control."
Regulators have called this stance simply incorrect. Though strikes by air-traffic controllers would be considered an extraordinary circumstance and not eligible for compensation, union-led strikes by airline crews have never been exempt from the compensation rules. Courts have recently ruled that airlines are even responsible for compensation for non-union-organized "wildcat" crew strikes.
If you're an affected passenger, file a claim with Ryanair first — but be prepared for to file a complaint with the national authorities in the country where the delay or cancellation takes place when your claim is rejected. Contact information for these complaints can be found here (caution: PDF link).
Passengers who wisely booked with a credit card that insures trip delays and trip cancellations can also seek compensation. The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card both list labor strikes as covered hazards eligible for trip-delay protection.
In response to the strikes, Ryanair's outspoken CEO has openly discussed re-basing aircraft — including hiring new crews — in Poland. But the airline's been dealing with a rafter of bad news beyond the strikes, including when a Ryanair flight experienced a sudden decompression that left passengers bleeding from their noses and ears, and reports of passengers abandoned at an airport without food. Critics accuse Ryanair of taking its current position as the largest airline in Europe for granted.
With pilot shortages looming and Ryanair's aggressive growth plans, it seems like an unwise strategy for the airline to continue to pick a fight with its crew members — and other airlines have noticed and are already working to poach disgruntled Ryanair crew.