Noelia Godoy and Jonatan Pineda were due to flight to Oporto on April 1, but the cabin-crew strike on Ryanair meant they were grounded and had to buy tickets with another airline.
They attempted to claim €500 in expenses from the Irish low-cost carrier, but were turned down on the grounds that the strike action was ‘out of the company’s control’.
Airlines are required under European legislation to compensate passengers a minimum of €250 for short-haul flights and €600 for medium- and long-haul flights in the event of cancellations or delays of three or more hours, as well as providing the necessary food and overnight accommodation.
But where delays and cancellations are ‘unforeseen’ and ‘beyond the control’ of the airline, they are not obliged to do so – for example, in the event of extreme and unusual weather conditions, terrorist attacks or other security issues, such as a bomb scare.
It is not clear whether Sra Godoy and Sr Pineda had been paid the €250 standard compensation fee, or whether their €500 claimed was in this respect.
Recently, other courts in the provinces of Badajoz (Extremadura), Ourense and Pontevedra (Galicia) passed similar verdicts.
Magistrate Francisco J Fernández of Barcelona’s No 6 Mercantile Court defined ‘extraordinary circumstances’ as ‘cases of political instability, weather conditions incompatible with air travel, security risks, unexpected deficiencies in air security and strikes which affect operations’.
Also, Ryanair argued that it had complied with all its obligations in similar situations – advising customers by email of their flight cancellations, offering all possible alternatives such as later flights, and also that they had reimbursed the couple the cost of their travel.
Earlier court verdicts had held that the Ryanair strikes were not ‘circumstances beyond the control of the company’ because legal industrial action is always in response to issues relating to working conditions, which are indeed within the control of the company.
And it has been reported in the last few months that the Irish airline had paid around €3 million in compensation to passengers affected by strikes.
The Barcelona court verdict is final and not open to appeal, but has now created some confusion for air travellers.
Pre-strike compensation claims to Ryanair for delays due to technical faults or ‘ordinary’ seasonal weather, among other issues, have normally been paid promptly and without dispute at the requisite €250, although passengers with long delays complained the refreshment vouchers given to them by the airline were insufficient at €5 per head – not enough, in many European airports, to buy a drink as well as a sandwich.