Should airlines’ compensate passengers for “Act of God” cancellations? Ryanair and passenger go to EU court

As you know, in 2010 there was the big problem with the volcanic ash that made almost impossible to fly in some areas. Airports closed, flights canceled. Passengers delayed – of course.

In such conditions, an airline must pay compensations. The passenger has the opportunity to choose between an alternative route for no extra charge, or refund. Also, the airline must pay for the accommodation, transport and food necessary. If the airline cannot provide assistance, the passengers can solve the problem their own way and ask for refund – but they have to make sure they have receipts for everything involved and not go for the highest price possible.

I have in my family cases when that happened. Not volcanic ash, but snow that paralyzed airports. The airline informed the passengers that they will be transported as soon as the airplanes can fly, and that until then they should go and rent a room in a hotel. They were given the sums of money covered (with the transport, room etc. Of course it didn’t cover a 5 star hotel, but it covered a great 3 or even 4 star hotel for a night). It was perfectly OK.

Now, here’s the case of a passenger flying with Ryanair. This passenger made a compensation claim when her Ryanair flight was canceled due to the volcanic ash. “According to the Irish Examiner, the airline refused to pay the €1,129 (£945) claim for expenses incurred and Denise McDonagh was forced to go to the county court.”.

From the same article on DailyMail we find out that the company is fighting this case for it hopes for a regulation change. “Ryanair believes the rules are ‘discriminating and unfit for purpose’ and that it places an ‘unlimited right to care and/or compensation burden on airlines’.”. The company argues that the airspace was closed due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and so the court is invited to decide if that was the case. Also, Ryanair asks the court to “rule whether airlines should ‘compensate passengers for these “Act of God” cancellations when travel insurance companies bear no liability.’

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Finally, they argue that compensation should be capped in line ‘with other forms of transport (road, rail and sea) to a monetary value and/or time duration.’”.

What do you think should happen in these conditions? Who should pay the passengers – or should the passengers be paid?
I know, sensitive subject! But I’m asking for, for instance, a travel agency DOESN’t have to pay back the traveler the money for a trip if that was canceled due to weather or similar conditions (volcanic ash, snow etc.). I know that because due to the exact volcanic ash cloud the vacation of a friend of mine canceled – her flight was canceled and all the arrangements were made through an agency. The agency showed the contract and the fact that it doesn’t have to pay back the money so my friend was left with no vacation, nor money. She payed extra for a vacation in a country next to ours – so she payed for 2 vacations, enjoyed the second one… So shouldn’t there be the same rules for all? How is good?


I’m offering public relations, communications and image counseling in everyday life and I have a PR agency – PRwave INTERNATIONAL. I am passionate about reading, blogging (I also have a blog in Romanian) and traveling. Follow me on Twitter - @violetaloredana (Romanian) and @TravelMoments.

21 thoughts on “Should airlines’ compensate passengers for “Act of God” cancellations? Ryanair and passenger go to EU court

  • 16 February, 2012 at 13:31

    Don’t Ryanair just make you want to scream?

    As much as I hated giving the company my money when I lived in Europe they were the only airline that flew directly from London to my home town, and so I booked with them.

    Then one year we got snowed in, flights were cancelled. It was -15 C outside (yep, minus 15) and people were told to stay off the roads due to black ice.

    What did Spamair do? Bussed us to another airport 8 hrs away (it usually only takes 5). The heating was broken, the driver refused to stop to allow anyone to go to the loo on the way, causing a revolt at a petrol station! And then when we got to Dublin airport the Ryanair desk refused to acknowledge anyone off the flight as no one from the bus had rung to tell them we were coming! Yes, the passengers were blamed for not informing them!

    They didn’t see why they should organise us on another flight. They refused to give any tokens/help with accommodation/what to do next. In fact, the ground staff used a tannoy to announce to everyone (standing directly in front of them) that they’d have to organise their own way home/flight… and not to bother contacting customer service as they didn’t have any!!

    So yeah, I can totally believe the same company would fight any compensation claims.

    They say it’s a low cost airline so you shouldn’t expect much. That flight cost 170 GBP! Hardly low cost to me. I haven’t flown with them for years now, and don’t plan to as long as I can help it.

    • 16 February, 2012 at 23:28

      Oh, that’s a terrible experience, Linda! I’m so sorry to hear you went through it and I completely undestand how you don’t want to fly with the company again.

      I’m also really curious as to what the EU court will decide 🙂 for if it rules in favor of Ryanair it means changing the law and consequences for all travelers.

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