Ryanair is continuing to misinform its passengers about their legal rights.
In continued problems for Ryanair, the airline announced that 150 out of the 400 flights scheduled to fly to and from Germany would be cancelled on 12 September 2018, due to a 24-hour strike by pilots and cabin crew.
Ryanair appears to be sticking to its position on not paying compensation to its beleagured passengers. A spokesperson for the airline said “Ryanair complies fully with EU261 legislation, under which no compensation is payable to customers when the (strike) delay/cancellation is beyond the airline’s control. If these strikes, by a tiny minority of Ryanair pilots, were within Ryanair’s control, there would have been no strikes and no cancellations.”
Ryanair’s position runs contrary to a ruling by the European Court of Justice from April 2018. The case of Helga Krüsemann and Others v TUIfly GmbH found that a strike by an airline company’s employees are not “extraordinary circumstances” for the purposes of compensation.
Back in August I, spotted more irregularity regarding Ryanair and compensation. As a general rule of thumb, travellers are due EU compensation if a flight is cancelled or arrives more than 3 hours late. However… for flights up to 3,500km in length, there are varying amounts of compensation when travellers are bumped from a flight due to overbooking and are delayed by UPTO 3 hours. This is also the case for flights where travellers have been given fewer than 14 days’ notice of a cancellation. (Travellers are not entitled to a full refund plus compensation, the compensation can only be claimed if you experienced the delay as part of your journey not sitting in your departure airport. If you didn’t travel, then you are not entitled to compensation.)
As of today (17 September 2018) the Ryanair EU Compensation claim form still provided the following misinformation:
“Delayed refers to flight delays over three hours. Claims will not be accepted for delays less than three hours”.
So, it appears that, in addition to Ryanair telling passengers they are not entitled to compensation due to pilot strikes, it is also denying them further rights for shorter journeys.
In August of this year I brought this to the attention of the CAA for action by the regulator. A spokesperson for the CAA said:
“We thank ‘The Complaining Cow website’ for highlighting this issue with Ryanair. The UK Civil Aviation Authority will be asking the airline to review the way it displays information to ensure consumers are fully aware of their rights.”
As of (insert date and time of posting this!) The site still says 3 hours. Be wary of being denied their rights by airlines such as Ryanair. It really is about time the CAA took control of the situation with Ryanair. Last year it took enforcement action for persistently misleading passengers with inaccurate information about their rights in respect of cancellations. The same is happening again, and although the CAA has issued a statement saying that Ryanair should be paying compensation, it has so far fallen short of taking enforcement action.
For more information about the Ryanair story, how you CAN claim, what you should quote to increase your chances of being successful and the issues around further action and ADR, see Landing in court with Ryanair.
Look East interviews Ryanair CCO and Helen Dewdney
“The Civil Aviation Authority has said it is taking legal action against Ryanair over its refusal to compensate thousands of UK-based customers.
Their flights were cancelled or delayed over the summer because of strikes by Ryanair pilots and cabin crew.
The CAA says they are entitled to compensation under EU law.
However, Ryanair argues the strike action amounts to “extraordinary circumstances” and that therefore, it does not have to pay.”
“Ryanair has now told the CAA that it has terminated its agreement with ADR.
“As a result of Ryanair’s action, passengers with an existing claim will now have to await the outcome of the Civil Aviation Authority’s enforcement action,” the CAA said.”
Summer of 2018 sees Ryanair, CAA and AviationADR in a flying shame of failures.
The Summer of 2018, like the Summer before, has seen Ryanair failing passengers trying to get to weddings, funerals, business meetings and, of course, holidays. This year, it seems that Ryanair is even trying to beat last year’s number of cancellations.
In 2015 the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) launched enforcement action against Ryanair. This action followed a review by the regulator that found Ryanair was not complying fully with European consumer law designed to support passengers following flight disruption. Ryanair was required to make policy changes or face the prospect of further enforcement steps leading to court action, if the airline remained non-compliant. Whilst it may have made policy changes “on paper” it appears to continue to flaunt them.
There are six different schemes authorised by the CAA to deal with airline complaints. AviationADR and CEDR are the two main alternative dispute resolution (ADR) providers. AviationADR is the provider for Ryanair. So, those passengers not getting any joy from Ryanair could take their case to AviationADR. However…..
“AviationADR received over 3,600 EU261 complaints about Ryanair in 2017. Only 496 passengers were awarded compensation. The vast majority of complaints were still outstanding at the end of year. In the first quarter of 2018 AviationADR received over 2,400 flight delay and cancellation complaints about Ryanair. In this time 282 passengers were awarded compensation and 98 were told they were entitled to nothing, leaving thousands still waiting for a decision.
For the first quarter of 2018 the figures are even worse. AviationADR received over 2,400 flight delay and cancellation complaints about Ryanair. In the same period just 282 passengers were awarded compensation and 98 were told they were entitled to nothing, meaning thousands were still waiting for a decision.”
In addition, “Aviation ADR said that a ‘very large’ number of the remaining complaints were ‘put on hold’ because they had been submitted by claims-management companies, who are in dispute with Ryanair. It said: ‘Given the ongoing litigation between (claims solicitor) Bott & Co and Ryanair… the claims management companies have agreed that these claims should be put on hold pending the final outcome of the court case.’
Bott & Co doesn’t accept that it has ‘agreed’ that the claims should be put on hold. It says, ‘we felt that the claims should be looked at, however Aviation ADR have currently refused to do so, because Ryanair won’t deal with claims presented by solicitors.’ It confirmed that it had made about 100 claims through Aviation ADR in 2017, ‘but we never got a response on any of them.’ It also said that it had another 10,000 complaints it had been planning to send, ‘but they told us to wait because they wouldn’t consider the claims whilst Bott & Co v Ryanair was ongoing.’
Committing an offence by even calling itself an ombudsman.
Wrongly implied in its 2015 annual report that Sainsbury’s and Tesco, as well as many other retailers, were members of its ADR scheme.
Allowed to call itself an ombudsman for more than a year by the Ombudsman Association (OA) before investigating. THE OA later issued a statement that The Retail Ombudsman ‘did not meet the OA’s membership criteria for independence, fairness, effectiveness, openness and transparency, and accountability’.
The Independent article
The Independentreported on AviationADR where a wrong decision had been made advising a passenger to claim against the airline with which she flew when Ryanair cancelled her flight. Not only that, it incorrectly advised her to claim against that airline, rather than against Ryanair! The airline was also an AviationADR member, so it would have been paid twice for essentially the same complaint!
Air India customer, Mukhtiar, is having problems getting the airline to pay the compensation he is owed. He was told on 21 February 2018 that AviationADR had ordered Air India to pay up on his case but he’s still yet to receive anything. On the 26 June 2018 Mukhtiar asked AviationADR for an update. AviationADR said “I can confirm however that we are seeking further assistance from the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) regarding this matter.” This begs the question: if AviationADR has to refer to the CAA for an issue of non-payment, just how effective is it? Six months later, as of 20 August 2018, Mukhtiar still does not have his money.
A spokesperson for the CAA said:
“The CAA maintains a regular dialogue with the UK ADR providers and is aware of only a relatively small number of cases of late payment of awards. The CAA itself receives a handful of complaints from consumers about late payment of awards. In the CAA’s view, this does not indicate that there is a systematic issue with the timeliness of the payment of awards resulting from ADR decisions. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
AirIndia has also now terminated it’s contract with AviationADR.
Ryanair comment regarding ADR
Ryanair was asked for the number of customers who have been paid out through AviationADR decisions and how many where the customer has come direct and Ryanair has made a decision in the customer’s favour. It was also asked how many cases for compensation it received in 2017and how many of those it awarded compensation and how many went to ADR. Ryanair said “We don’t break down our data on claims to that extent.”
As regards the strike action, a spokesperson from Ryanair said “With regards to EU261 compensation for cancellations arising from strikes, our position has not changed: “Ryanair complies fully with EU261 legislation, under which no compensation is payable to customers when the (strike) delay/cancellation is beyond the airline’s control. If these strikes, by a tiny minority of Ryanair pilots, were within Ryanair’s control, there would have been no strikes and no cancellations.”
When asked for a comment regarding the strikes by cabin crew Ryanair refused to provide a comment.
A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority said: “The ADR Regulations, which set out the rules to which approved ADR bodies must adhere, specifies that ADR providers must reach their decisions within 90 days from the receipt of the complete case file – and to report each year on the average time taken to resolve complaints. For the year up to March 2018, the two ADR providers reported an average time of 65 days to reach a decision, well below the 90 day threshold. We are aware that a small number of complaints do exceed the 90 day threshold, and indeed we receive a handful of complaints ourselves from consumers who have experienced a delay in their complaint being decided. We will continue to monitor this issue and to work with the ADR providers to ensure that complaints are dealt with in a timely manner.”
It is important to note, “90 days from the receipt of the complete case file”. This means that an airline could hold up the case indefinitely by never sending required documents! As far as the CAA is concerned the providers are doing ok even if an airline takes 5 months to send information!
A spokesperson for the CAA said:
“The CAA maintains a regular dialogue with the UK ADR providers and is aware of only a relatively small number of cases go over the 90 day time limit. The CAA itself receives a handful of complaints from consumers about the timeliness of ADR decision making. In the CAA’s view, this does not indicate that there is a systematic issue with the timeliness of ADR decision making. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Trying to gain examples of monitoring has proven difficult. The CAA has been given copies of both the OO and MOO report and is aware of the OA and Which? criticism but has continued to approve AviationADR.
In February of this year the CAA said that the average rate for consumer complaints being upheld by CEDR was 89% and for AviationADR 71%
If you have used ADR and not been paid out, contact the CAA CEO.
What if you do not want to use AviationADR?
Having read the articles and documents you may not want to use AviationADR, so what do you do?
Do you need to show you have used ADR before you can go to court?
The Pre-Action Conduct guide, published by the Department of Justice, explains the conduct and steps courts would normally expect parties to take before commencing proceedings for particular types of civil claims.
This conduct states that litigation should be a last resort. The defendant and complainant should consider whether negotiation or ADR might enable them to settle their dispute without commencing proceedings. They should consider the possibility of reaching a settlement at all times throughout the process.
The court may decide that one or more parties (claimant or defendant) has failed to comply if s/he has unreasonably refused to use a form of ADR, or failed to respond to an invitation to do so.
If there has been a non-compliance that is not materially important then there’s no need for the court to do anything. But if there has been a non-compliance the court could pause or stop the proceedings until the party fulfils its duty under the pre-action conduct/practice direction. It is possible that if a claimant hasn’t tried ADR, the court could stop the case proceeding any further until the parties have used an ADR provider. The court could also apply sanctions.
The sanctions that could be applied (for any non-compliance with the protocol) cover the financial implications. The party at fault for non-compliance may have to pay the cost of proceedings, or part of the cost to the other party. This could be on an indemnity basis (which means that it might not be proportionate). If the claimant has been awarded money s/he may be awarded less interest than otherwise may have been the case. (If the defendant is at fault, s/he may be awarded a higher rate
I am not aware of any cases where someone has received sanctions as described above for not undertaking ADR. I would think the suitability of the ADR provider could provide grounds for your refusing to use that route.
Possible reasons for putting forward the case not to use ADR
The wording in the protocol clearly states that ADR should be considered. It does not say it must be taken. The Which? articles, the article in The Independent and the two reports go into a lot of detail about failures, delays in dealing with complaints, mistakes etc. It should be easily possible to argue that you have considered ADR in this case but for the following reasons:
1) Details of the Which? articles
2) Details of The Independent article
3) The points from OO report that relate to AviationADR (The Retail Ombudsman/CDRL)
4) The summary of the financial history of Dean Dunham’s companies provided in the MOO report
5) The list of points in the MOO report which relate to AviationADR
6) The minutes from the Ombudsman Association (reproduced in the MOO report) that show that CDRL lack the credentials to provide quality ADR.
I am not a lawyer and do not give legal advice. I give help and guidance and the above is just my opinion. However, I believe a court will understand if you feel that AviationADR would be unable to deal with your case satisfactorily, given the background information shown here!
Westminster Business Forum seminar Next steps for consumer protection in the UK – dispute processes, enforcement and the consumer markets green paper. 15/11/18 Alternative Dispute Resolution – approval and oversight in the loosest possible sense of the words…
Alternative Dispute Resolution – approval and oversight in the loosest sense of the words…
Look East interviews Ryanair CCO and Helen Dewdney
LookEast Evening and Late News 23/08/18. Two interviews with me regarding the current situation and one with the Ryanair Chief Commercial Officer David O’Brien. Looks at strikes, rights, bounced cheques and baggage issues.
Look East interviews Ryanair CCO and Helen Dewdney