A legal test case could see Ryanair paying out £610 million to almost 2.3 million delayed passengers.
It surrounds how long Ryanair passengers have to take a flight delay claim to court.
Two passengers have bought the case against the low-cost carrier seeking to ensure compensation can be claimed within six years of a flight, while Ryanair says it should only have to pay within two.
The outcome could lead to Ryanair putting a two year time limit on claims, despite the Supreme Court ruling that passengers have six years to claim
It is likely that all other courts in England and Wales will follow the decision of Manchester County Court.
If Ryanair loses, the airline could face potential claims from 2.26 million passengers covering £610 million in compensation.
If the airline wins the case, it could lead to all other carriers following suit and putting a two year cap on claims.
The case revolves around two passengers who travelled on the same delayed flight in 2009.
Flight regulation entitles passengers to claim compensation of up to €600 each for delays of three hours or more, so long as it was not caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’.
Ryanair argues that by accepting its terms and conditions when they buy a ticket, passengers agree they only have two years to take a claim to court.
However the Supreme Court ruling in a previous case, Dawson v Thomson Airways, clarified passengers in England and Wales have six years to take a claim to court in October 2014.
Ryanair is now defending its position in court – insisting its passengers waive their right to the six-year limit.
The decision stands to affect around 2.26 million passengers and potentially total around £610 million in compensation, calculated on the basis that 2% of flights on average are delayed.
Kevin Clarke flight delay lawyer at Bott & Co, which is defending the passengers, said: “The last 12 months have seen a series of landmark judgments obtained by Bott & Co on behalf of millions of passengers and this case is as important as any of those that precede it.
“We fully expect the airlines to continue to fight cases such as this one but we are prepared to hold them to account in each and every instance where the law says compensation is payable. We look forward to hearing the Judge’s decision so we can assess what our next steps will be.”
Stephanie Beckett, solicitor at Thomas Eggar LLP, said: “The case of Goel and Trivedi v Ryanair challenges previous rulings (such as Dawson v Thomson Airways) which made it clear that passengers in England and Wales can issue a claim for compensation for delayed flights within six years.
“Ryanair argues that such claims can only be brought within two years, as passengers are deemed to have accepted Ryanair’s terms and conditions of booking which impose a two-year limit on such claims.
“Legally, it is possible to vary or exclude statutory limitation periods by agreement, which is what Ryanair has attempted to do.
“In this case the judge will have to consider whether passengers can be deemed to have agreed to the variation of the limitation period contained in Ryanair’s terms and conditions purely by booking their ticket, as well as whether the two-year limitation is reasonable in the circumstances.
“It is important to remember that this case is being decided at County Court level and therefore the decision will not create a legally binding precedent, particularly given the existence of the Court of Appeal’s decision in Dawson v Thomson Airways.
“However, if the judge does agree with Ryanair, the door will be open for Ryanair and other airlines to rely on similar provisions in their booking terms and conditions in refusing to pay out compensation where claims are brought after the contractual limitation period.”
A Ryanair spokesman told the Manchester Evening News: “Ryanair does not comment on pending legal matters, deals with each claim on a case by case basis and fully complies with all EU261 legislation.”
The ruling has been reserved for two weeks.
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