A Connexion reader has described how he won a court case against low-cost airline Ryanair after it claimed that his France-UK flight was cancelled due to bad weather when this was not the case.
If an EU flight is cancelled passengers should be entitled to compensation if the cancellation was the airline’s responsibility and happened less than 14 days before departure, and if any replacement flights delay arrival time by two or more hours, Citizens Advice explains.
The compensation offered depends on the distance covered by the flight and the resulting delays.
However, airlines may use bad weather as a defence against paying compensation.
Delayed… and then cancelled
Retiree Keith Ross, who worked in the insurance industry and has lived near Bordeaux for 18 years, was travelling from Bordeaux-Mérignac to London-Stansted, ready for his goddaughter’s wedding in Essex the next day.
Mr Ross had noticed earlier that day that Stansted had been temporarily closed due to snowy conditions, but his flight was meant to depart at 18:00 and was still scheduled to take off on time.
He arrived at the airport and was told that the flight was still set to leave on time. It was only when he was waiting in the departure lounge that he received a text from Ryanair saying that the flight had been delayed until 19:55.
“Why leave this message until five minutes before the scheduled departure?” he said to The Connexion. “There was very little information on the Bordeaux Airport monitors.”
Mr Ross later received another text from Ryanair saying that the flight had been put back again to 21:00. Then, at nearly 20:00, he was informed that the flight had been cancelled.
“Absolutely no instructions were given on what to do. Everyone went back to the check-in area but there was no Ryanair representative available!
“I had to go and find them to tell them there was a plane-load of people waiting.”
Forced to travel by road
“Because of the delay in finally cancelling the flight, no other flights were available for me to finally get to the wedding, and it was too late to try and travel by train.
“So, the only option was to travel by car.” Mr Ross therefore returned home and booked to travel on the 06:30 Eurotunnel train the next morning. The 865km journey took him seven and a half hours.
When Mr Ross finally arrived at his hotel in Essex, he was only able to have three hours sleep before he needed to get up for the wedding.
“I was so tired I had to leave the wedding reception long before the finish,” he said.
During his journey to the UK, Mr Ross did receive an email from Ryanair offering him a refund for the flight, which he accepted. However, the route he was forced to take cost him €278 in Eurotunnel fares, €122 in petrol and €73 in tolls, while the plane tickets had come to a total of €171. He also had to cancel the non-refundable airport car hire he had booked for €184.
Mr Ross later discovered on contacting Stansted that the runway had been reopened at 12:51 on the day in question and remained open for the rest of the day. He then emailed Ryanair on several different occasions asking for the reason that the flight was delayed, and was eventually told that it was due to ‘adverse weather conditions outside of our control’.
“I received an email from customer relations at Stansted Airport stating that all aircraft would have had access to their stands when the airport was open and airline staff would have had access to the boarding gates for their flights,” he said. “Therefore it would appear that adverse weather conditions did not cause the cancellation of this flight.”
This would give passengers the right to claim compensation.
‘Tired of Big Brother hammering the little person’
Ryanair would not respond to Mr Ross’ requests for further information on when and why the airline decided to cancel the flight, and after “protracted communication with its solicitors in London” he decided to take the matter to the European Small Claims Court.
Although the flight cancellation happened on December 27, 2017, it took years to eventually come to court.
“We finally went to court in Chelmsford in April to May 2020, more than two years after I started out with this,” Mr Ross said.
Mr Ross, who has carried out similar actions against other companies including Tesco and Barclays Insurance in the past, said that as he was representing himself: “It was my time, so it wasn’t really a problem.”
“Ryanair produced a 90-page document to the court but didn’t produce it to me until afterwards, when they should have done so prior.
“The judge said that he had read it and asked if the author was there. They said no and he said he would therefore dismiss it because he didn’t have the opportunity to question that person on the information contained in the record.
However, in the document, the judge had found that “the tower at Stansted gave Ryanair multiple times for taking off, therefore the decision to cancel was not to do with adverse weather conditions, but was an operational decision. So, he ruled in my favour.”
Mr Ross was given €250 in compensation, but he said his reason for going to court was more that: “I’m tired of Big Brother hammering the little person. I just get annoyed.”
He added that he has written to people he has seen complaining about Ryanair in the past to encourage them to take their grievances further.
“It’s great to complain but companies like this take absolutely no notice of complaints, because they believe that you will go away. And 99% do go away, apart from people like me, because I think it is totally and utterly wrong.”
We have asked Ryanair if it wishes to comment and are awaiting a response.
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