Airlines mull implications of “extraordinary circumstances”
The highest court in the European Union has ruled that Ryanair went against EU law by refusing to compensate a passenger left stranded for a week during the Iceland volcanic ash cloud crisis in April 2010. Denise McDonagh from Ireland was stuck in Portugal for a week after the eruption. Her hotel and food bills came to €1,130. The airline refused to compensate, claiming “extraordinary circumstances”. Irish courts eventually sent the case to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which has now ordered Ryanair to cover the costs.
Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary made the implications for the budget airline market clear in an interview with SkyNews. “Today’s decision is a very bad one for the price of air travel in Europe,” he warned. “The next time there’s an ash cloud or the skies are closed by Europe’s governments, the insurance companies will walk away and wash their hands because it is an act of god. The airlines will become the insurers of last resort so somebody who has paid us to go to the Canaries who maybe is stuck there for two weeks, two months, six months, will now sue the airlines. And you’ll have airlines going out of business and the ones who stay in business will be putting up their air fares to recover these crazy claims.”