When Ryanair tries, wrongly, to accuse Brussels Airlines to justify its refusal to compensate
Ryanair still refuses to compensate passengers for cancelled flights following the July 25-26 and August 10 strikes.
1350 people whose flights were cancelled by Ryanair after the summer strikes registered their complaint with the consumer association Test-Achats/Aankoop (TA), which on Friday introduced the first 50 cases before the lower courts in Zaventem and Charleroi.
The consumer association is confident about the outcome and hopes to get the Irish company to reverse its position.
Yes, Ryanair is still refusing to compensate passengers for flights cancelled following the July 25 and 26 and August 10 strikes (a fixed compensation in case of cancellation less than fourteen days before departure, in addition to the reimbursement of the ticket or an alternative proposal).
In a statement sent on Monday, the company invokes exceptional circumstances and considers that "under EU261 law, no compensation is payable to customers when the delay/cancellation is beyond the control of the airline. If these strikes would have been under the control of Ryanair, there would have been no cancellations."
But the low-cost company goes further and tries to show in its statement that it is not the only one to react as follows: "TA should explain why Brussels Airlines was not required to pay EU261 compensation after the strike of its pilots in May 2018, and why TA did not take any legal action against Brussels Airlines. In the same way, in Germany, Lufthansa was not obliged to pay indemnities EU261 for the 17 days of strikes by its pilots and crew members, and we note that TA has not started any action with the Belgian courts against Lufthansa."
Except that ... it's wrong. While it is true that TA did not take action against Brussels Airlines, it is simply because they have fulfilled their obligations.
"When it's a partner company that goes on strike, that's not our responsibility, but when it's our staff who goes on strike, we pay these indemnities, which has cost us a lot," says Wencke Lemmes-Pireaux, spokeswoman for Brussels Airlines, "a total of 10 million for all the days of the strike, which includes compensation but also refunds of tickets or alternative flights on other airlines".
The spokesperson of Brussels Airlines acknowledges however that the agreement on these compensations is recent. The legislation on the subject has changed since April 2018 and the publication of a judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union, whose conclusion is very clear: "A wildcat strike of aircrew following the surprise announcement of a restructuration does not constitute an "extraordinary circumstance" allowing the airline to be released from its obligation of compensation in the event of cancellation or long delay of a flight".
The court ruled on the case of the German airline TUIfly, where a restructuring of the company was announced by surprise to its staff on September 30, 2016, because of a restructuring of the company. An announcement that angered employees, aircrew deciding to go on sick leave between October 1 and October 10, 2016. The rate of absent pilots had reached 62% and the strike had caused many delays and cancellations. Believing that these were "extraordinary circumstances", TUIfly had, like Ryanair, refused to pay passengers their legal allowances. But the European judges had considered that restructuring and reorganization "are part of the normal business management measures" and that "the airlines can be, in an normal way, confronted, in the exercise of their activity, with disagreements, conflicts, with the members of their staff or with some of them."
As for Lufthansa, TA did not bring an action in court simply because the association had not received enough complaints about that (the strike concerned mainly Germany). That said, if it is true that they were also reluctant to pay these allowances, the company will also have to change its tune: on July 18, 2018, given this new jurisprudence, the company, whose pilots had gone on strike in 2016 was sentenced by the Luxembourg court to pay compensation to two passengers who had requested it. In short, TA is confident about the outcome of the first cases against the Irish company and "Ryanair will be approached again so that it revises its position. In case of persistent refusal, other cases will be brought to justice so that every passenger is compensated ".
(after Belga and RTBF)
ex Sabena #26567