Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary says cost of compensating stranded passengers means add-on fee is airline’s only option
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary has denied the airline is “punishing” millions of passengers by imposing a £2 levy (€2 in Europe) on fares to pay for customers stranded during last year’s snow, volcano and air traffic control chaos.
The chief executive of Europe’s largest short-haul carrier said the airline had no choice but to introduce a new add-on charge from next week after the European Union failed to reform its EU261 compensation law. O’Leary said the £110m raised by the fee over the next 12 months will cover the cost of providing hotels and compensation to passengers stranded by last year’s severe weather, the Icelandic volcano eruption and air traffic control strikes in Belgium, France and Spain.
“If you are not allowed, as EU261 regulation states, to recover these costs then the passenger must pay,” said O’Leary, repeating calls for a “force majeure” clause that would waive compensation for delays and cancellations outside an airline’s control. O’Leary denied he was punishing passengers this year in order to pay for customers stranded last year who, for instance, had to spend an extra fortnight in hotels in Tenerife due to the Icelandic volcano that shut down European airspace in April.
“Nobody has argued that Ryanair punishes people given that we offer the lowest fares and are the most punctual airline,” O’Leary said. He also predicted that other airlines will soon follow suit if there is no EU261 reform. “If the EU says airlines should become the insurer of last resort then we have to be allowed to recover the costs from passengers.”
The Ryanair boss pledged to reduce the levy to zero next year if the airline incurs no “unfair” EU261 costs over the next 12 months. The levy represents a 6% increase on last year’s average fare of £30. The consumer group Which? said Ryanair should use the proceeds from the levy to ensure that all EU261 payments are dealt with swiftly in the future.
Rochelle Turner, head of research for Which? Travel, said: “Since this charge is going to be passed on to all Ryanair passengers from now on, we will be watching closely to see how it deals with claims made under EU261. With more money to put towards resources for processing claims, Ryanair will have no excuse for delays in dealing with them.”
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