Ryanair and the Icelandic Volcano Payout

Two years ago, an Icelandic volcano erupted spreading a cloud of ash over Europe, prompting governments to shut down airports, grounding more than 100,000 flights. For those unfamiliar with such phenomena, ash sucked into jet engines can cause them to fail.

That Great Volcanic Ash Snafu

Thousands of Passengers Stranded

Thousands of passengers were stranded by the volcano – some for a week or more – and a number of airlines helped them out with vouchers for hotels and meals. One that didn’t, at least not initially, was Dublin-based discount carrier Ryanair, which vowed to fight the unfair European law that obliged them to provide for passenger care.

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Ultimately, Ryanair executives reversed themselves in the wake of a storm of criticism, but according to Bloomberg, the airline only reimbursed passengers about 90 percent of their expenses, and one of them sued.

Ryanair Must Pay ‘Passenger Care’

Now, in a legal opinion by an Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (which is followed in 80 percent of cases by the full court), Ryanair is being told it must pay up.

The low-cost carrier had argued that the volcanic eruption in the spring of 2010 and subsequent government actions including airport shutdowns went well “above and beyond” the definition of extraordinary circumstances that, under the law, require airlines to reimburse passengers. The Advocate General disagreed and a full ruling is expected later this year.

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Published: March 22, 2012