Posted on: 30 March 2011 by Mark Howells
Ryanair is to introduce a €2 levy per passenger for all bookings made from 4th April 2011 to fund its costs of flight cancellations, delays and its EU261 costs in ‘force majeure’ cases where the airline believes it is not responsible for either the delays or cancellations.
Ryanair says that over the past year it has suffered costs of more than €100 million arising from flight cancellations, delays and providing right to care, compensation and legal expenses arising from more than 15,000 flight cancellations and over 2.4 million disrupted passengers, with the majority of claims arising in three periods during which Ryanair asserts it was prevented from flying by the failure/inaction of third parties. The three occasions the airline cites were the Icelandic volcano airspace closures of April/May 2010; the snow closures of many EU airports during November/December 2010; and more than 15 days of national ATC strikes, primarily in Belgium, France, Germany and Spain in summer 2010, which caused repeated flight delays and cancellations.
Ryanair believes that unfair and discriminatory elements of the airline EU261 regulations should be amended to relieve airlines of the burden of providing care in cases where the cancellations and/or delays are “clearly not the responsibility or fault of the airlines”.
Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara commented, “The EU261 regulations are clearly discriminatory in the way they are applied to airlines, by making airlines responsible for delays, cancellations and right of care expenses during force majeure events such as volcanic eruptions, the snow closure of airports and the frequent ATC strikes across Europe. Despite repeated calls, the European Commission and EU governments have still failed to make Europe’s ATC services an essential service, which (like their US ATC counterparts) should not have the right to strike.
“It is clearly unfair,” he continued, “that airlines are obliged to provide meals and accommodation for passengers (for days and weeks in some cases), simply because governments close their airspace, or air traffic controllers walk off the job, or incompetent airports fail to clear their runways of snow. When the EU261 regulations were first introduced, airlines were assured that they could recover the cost of these cancellations and delays from those parties who caused them. However the airlines have no right of recovery from governments (when they close airspace), ATC unions (when they repeatedly walk off the job), or airports (who can’t even clear snow off their runways). It’s a crazy situation that travel insurance companies paid out nothing during the volcanic ash crisis last year (because it was an ‘Act of God’), yet the airlines were forced to pick up weeks of delays, cancellations, hotel and restaurant costs.
“Our EU261 levy enables us to contribute to these costs, while still maintaining Ryanair’s unbeatable low fares,” McNamara added. “We hope that we will ultimately succeed in removing the discriminatory provisions of the EU 261 regulations which oblige airlines to suffer millions of euro in delays, cancellations and care expenses, even during ‘force majeure’ events which are clearly beyond our control. We are also seeking to have any EU261 compensation linked to the air fare paid, as it is the case for competing rail, ferry and coach transport, so that there is a level playing field between transport providers across Europe.
“While we regret the imposition of this €2 EU261 levy, the extraordinary costs which have been imposed on us by delays and cancellations under these discriminatory regulations must be recovered from passengers,” McNamara concluded.