MILLIONS of Ryanair passengers could receive compensation after a landmark court judgment ruled the airline cannot limit the time allowed to claim compensation for flight delays.
Lawyers claimed the Irish carrier could be liable for payouts of around £610 million after the firm lost a test case at Manchester County Court.
The airline had argued claims for delays could be limited to two years under a clause in their terms and conditions small print – not six years, as is the rule under European Union Law.
The case was brought by lawyers for six delayed passengers who tried to claim compensation for delayed flights after five years and eight months, which Ryanair contested.
After a long-running legal battle, Judge Platts ruled Ryanair’s rules fall foul of European Flight Delay law. Ryanair said it will appeal the decision.
Lawyers say the ruling in the case, Goel & Trivedi v Ryanair, stands to affect millions of air passengers. They say if Ryanair had won, all airlines might have been able to put a two-year time bar on all existing and future flight delay claims.
Kevin Clarke, lawyer for Manchester law firm Bott & Co, who fought the case for the passengers, said: “We’re 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.”
He added: “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.”
But Ryanair said the figures quoted by the lawyers were “absurd”.
In a statement, the airline said: “Firstly, since less than 1 per cent of Ryanair flights are delayed over three hours and since more than 90 per cent 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 €5m (£3.6m).”
The firm added: “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.”
Mr Clarke said his figures were based on the possibility that everybody who could claim, would claim.
He added: “The figure we have provided is accurate.
“Ryanair say that more than 90 per cent of people who make valid claims with them do so within two years.
“However, only a fraction of people who can claim do claim and as such this point is ultimately specious.
“This is the only accurate, unbiased statistic which matters. It is their total liability.”