Ryanair is to launch an appeal after a judge at Manchester County Court ruled against the budget carrier in a test case which may have a significant impact for airlines.
Judge Platts ruled that Ryanair was not able to limit the amount of time passengers have before they are able to claim flight delay compensation.
In a statement after the ruling was announced today Ryanair said: “We note this ruling which reverses Lower Court orders that a win year time limit for claims is reasonable.
"Since we believe a six year time limit for submitting such claims is both unnecessary and unreasonable, we have instructed our lawyers to immediately appeal this ruling.”
In a further statement countering claims about how much the airline could be liable for as a result of the judgement, the airline said:
“Ryanair today rubbished the absurd claims about its potential liability under the Manchester Court judgement.
"Firstly, since less than 1% of Ryanair flights are delayed over three hours and since more than 90% of passengers make a valid claim within Ryanair’s contractual two year period, there is a tiny potential group of passengers who may wish to submit a claim between two and six years after the date of their flight delay.
"Accordingly, Ryanair estimates that even if its appeal in this matter is ultimately unsuccessful, its potential liability will not be material and is likely to be less than €5 million.”
The no-frills carrier had argued that a clause in its terms and conditions meant that passengers agreed to a limit of two years on taking a claim to court, four years less than a Supreme Court judgment which said customers could bring a compensation claim within a six-year window.
Bott & Co, the solicitors that took the case to court on behalf of clients Goel & Trivedi, claim that the result of the case will set a precedent for all other flight compensation claims in England and Wales.
Bott & Co estimates that the ruling stands to benefit around 2.66 million Ryanair passengers – equating to around £610 million in potential compensation.
The firm said that although no other airlines are currently running the two year limitation argument, the majority have a similar clause in their terms and conditions stating that passengers only have two years to issue court proceedings.
Flight delay lawyer Kevin Clarke, who acted on behalf of Goel & Trivedi said: “We are delighted that the court has dismissed yet another argument put forward by the airlines to restrict passenger rights.
“The last 12 months have seen a series of landmark judgments obtained by Bott & Co on behalf of millions of passengers and this is as important as any of those that precede it.
“The Supreme Court decision last year said passengers have six years to bring a claim. That is a definitive, binding, clear judgment from the highest court in England and Wales.
“This should have concluded matters but unfortunately Ryanair has been able to tweak the argument; we found ourselves running a complicated court case arguing the fine points of contract law.
“We fully expect the airlines to continue to fight these cases but we are prepared to hold them to account in each and every instance where the law says compensation is payable, and with the courts continuing to find on behalf of consumers we’ve real cause to be optimistic that passengers will receive the compensation they are entitled to.”
Hannah Clipston, Partner at law firm Thomas Eggar, said: “This paves the way for Ryanair customers to claim compensation going back six years from their delayed flight and restricts the ability of airlines to impose lower contractually set limitation periods. Ryanair has indicated that an appeal will be lodged, therefore the aviation industry should continue to watch this case with interest.”
The CAA recently prompted changes to the compensation policies of a number of airlines over issues including a limitation on the time in which customers were able to claim.
Jet2 and Wizz Air subsequently amended their policies.
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