The European Union's top court has ruled that low-budget carrier Ryanair of Ireland has to pay more compensation to passengers stranded during the 2012 volcano eruption in Iceland. It had so far refused many claims.
The European Court of Justice on Thursday ruled that Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair must compensate more passengers who couldn't reach their destinations on schedule because of the 2010 eruption of an Icelandic volcano spewing a massive cloud of ash for several days and crippling aviation.
The Luxembourg court said even in such extraordinary circumstances airlines had the obligation to lodge and feed passengers before they could finish their journeys.
Ryanair said it had already paid out over 26 million euros ($35.3 million) in compensation, but the carrier had refused many claims citing excessive costs. The court ruled on a case brought by an Irish citizen who experienced a five-day wait before flights between Ireland and the rest of the continent were re-established. She had claimed expenses to the tune of over 1,300 euros for her overnight stays and food which Ryanair must now ordered to pay.
Change of pricing policies?
The court also said there must be no time limit on claims for such compensation. It argued that the volcanic eruption definitely constituted extraordinary circumstances, but added there was no category of "particularly extraordinary" incidents that would allow carriers to be exonerated from their obligations.
The judges said they realized the ruling might have dire consequences for some airlines' budgets, but added that passenger rights came first and indicated that carriers ought to make provisions for such otherwise unforeseeable disasters.
Analysts commented the ruling was bound to impact air travel ticket prices particularly in the low-budget market.
hg/msh (dapd, AFP, AP)