Ryanair has been told it must email hundreds of thousands of passengers on grounded flights, and offer them flights on other airlines as well as meeting out-of-pocket expenses.
For a second day running, the chief executive at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Andrew Haines, has written to Ryanair’s legal chief, Julius Komorek.
In a three-page letter sent on Wednesday evening, Mr Haines complained about the Irish airline’s behaviour while cancelling 20,000 flights because of a shortage of pilots. Ryanair, he wrote, was “persistently misleading passengers with inaccurate information regarding their rights”. In particular, the emails notifying travellers about the cancellations failed to point out the right to a flight on another airline, if that is the best solution.
By Thursday morning Ryanair had issued a statement saying it was “meeting with the CAA and will comply fully with whatever requirements they ask us to”.
But, as The Independent revealed, the airline’s customer-service staff continued to refuse passengers who asked to be booked on rival carriers.
The latest letter runs to four pages. It welcomes Ryanair’s promise to obey the CAA. Mr Haines then demands that the airline issues a statement by 5pm on Friday to clarify its rebooking policy; to commit to assist passengers who chose an unsuitable option because they were not in possession of the full facts; and to refund any out-of-pocket expenses of people affected by the cancellations.
A link to the statement must appear on the Ryanair website.
By 5pm on Monday, Ryanair is required to provide the CAA with the text for an email to be sent to the hundreds of thousands of ticket holders affected by cancelled flights to or from the UK.
flight cancellation plans to mid-March
The email must include “accurate and comprehensive information on their rights and options”. It must allow Ryanair passengers who have already chosen a refund to change their mind, and insist on being booked on another airline’s flight. All passengers should be contacted by 5pm on Wednesday.
Ryanair faces legal action for ‘persistently misleading’ passengers
The main beneficiaries will be the tens of thousands of people booked on three key domestic routes that have been ditched for the winter: Stansted to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and Gatwick to Belfast International. On all these routes, passengers will be able to opt for flights on easyJet at Ryanair’s expense.
Anglo-Scottish travellers can choose to go by rail instead. In addition, Northern Ireland customers who switched to Dublin-Gatwick flights on Ryanair can either opt for easyJet from Belfast instead, or claim extra transport costs for reaching the Irish capital.
Anyone who has accepted a refund and then rebooked at a higher fare on a rival airline will be entitled to claim back the difference.
These stipulations will cost Ryanair tens of millions of pounds. The airline will be particularly concerned about the open-ended nature of the commitment to meet “any expenses [passengers] have incurred as a result of the cancellations”.