Airline passengers win landmark lawsuit against Ryanair

Travelers just won a groundbreaking lawsuit against Ryanair over a clause prohibiting their access to claims for flight disruption compensation. Almost 50% of airlines around the world reject claims, and this clause is poised to reduce passengers’ ability to claim compensation that’s rightfully theirs.

This year, airlines such as British Airways and easyJet have started implementing an unjust clause stating passengers must contact the airlines directly for claims filings and cannot pursue legal assistance before reaching out to an airline directly and getting rejected. Originally created by Ryanair, the new antagonistic clause in airlines’ terms and conditions prohibits any passenger eligible for EC 261 compensation from freely choosing how to pursue their claim. Given almost 50% of airlines around the world wrongfully reject claims, this clause could effectively reduce opportunities for eligible passengers to claim compensation.

In a landmark win in Dutch court against Ryanair for AirHelp – a passenger rights organization – it was legally concluded that the clause is unfair and has been struck down. This ruling sends a positive signal to courts all over Europe and sets a strong example of how the EC 261 legislation should be interpreted to fully protect air passenger rights.

“This is the first ruling of its kind in a country that is a large player in the aviation industry, and it confirms our beliefs that passengers must be put first. Air passengers should undoubtedly be allowed to execute their rights in any way they want. We hope the ruling will resonate well with courts all over Europe. [Our] work with disputing unfair terms and conditions has only just begun. Fighting on behalf of passengers is part of who we are as an organization and will continue to be a priority,” said Christian Nielsen, Chief Legal Officer at AirHelp.

The controversial clause states that in the event of a flight delay or disruption, if passengers want to file a claim for compensation, they must first contact the airline directly. Only after first trying and failing would passengers be permitted to seek legal assistance to obtain the money owed. Before being struck down, the clause had been upheld by courts in England, which is why airlines from that region are beginning to adopt this, putting their corporate interests ahead of the customers they serve.

Last year, hundreds of thousands of claims were analyzed and on average, U.S. airlines wrongfully reject more than 25% of claims, and globally, an average of 50% of claims were wrongfully rejected by airlines. EasyJet, one of the airlines with this clause, only paid out compensation in two percent of cases unless further legal action had been taken by the passenger rights organization.

“It is clear that airlines are adopting this clause to add hurdles to passengers seeking compensation. From our point of view, this is a very hostile stance to take against customers, and a behavior we would expect from a company such as Ryanair, but not from one of Europe’s most trusted and well-respected airlines like British Airways,” added Nielsen.