Fewer than 500 Ryanair passengers who faced delays or cancellations were awarded compensation by an airline complaints body last year, a new investigation by Which? has revealed.
That means only 14 per cent of cancellation and delay claims in 2017 by British customers against the Irish low-cost carrier led to a pay-out.
In light of this the consumer group is warning that with Ryanair saying it won’t pay compensation for its latest round of cancellations, passengers will have to take their claims to Aviation ADR, the airline’s dispute resolution handler – and may have to wait a long time to get their money.
Fewer than 500 Ryanair passengers who faced delays or cancellations were awarded compensation by an airline complaints body last year, a new investigation by Which? has revealed
Which? says that its research shows that Aviation ADR received over 3,600 complaints about Ryanair in 2017, but just 496 passengers were awarded compensation.
The vast majority of complaints were still outstanding at the end of year, suggesting many passengers were waiting months to get what they were owed.
For the first quarter of 2018, the figures are even more alarming, according to Which?, as Aviation ADR received 2,400 flight delay and cancellation complaints about Ryanair in this period.
However, of these, just 282 passengers were awarded compensation and a further 98 were told they were entitled to nothing, meaning thousands were still waiting for a decision.
HOW YOU CAN CLAIM COMPENSATION FROM RYANAIR
Aviation ADR has told consumer group Which? that it has been ruling in favour of consumers who’ve complained about Ryanair cancellations caused by internal strikes.
It said: ‘So far, all complaints that we have processed in relation to strike action at Ryanair have been determined in favour of the passenger, predominantly on the basis that we have seen no evidence to substantiate any submissions that the cause of such delay amounted to “extraordinary circumstances”.
But it added: ‘We understand that Ryanair is submitting further evidence in relation to the current pilot and crew strikes.
‘Once received, we will review the evidence to decide whether it has any impact on the outcome of any passenger complaints that we have not yet determined.
Passengers who have a flight cancelled with less than 15 days notice as a result of flight or cabin crew industrial action should complain to the airline first.
If they do not receive a satisfactory response they have little choice but to use Aviation ADR.
Unlike with the claims solicitors, the process is free and Ryanair is legally obliged to comply with its decisions.
In response to Which?’s findings, Aviation ADR revealed that of the 3,628 Ryanair complaints it received in 2017, some were refused (the arbitration bodies are allowed to reject complaints if the customer has not complained to the airline first or if they are otherwise out of their scope) and others were discontinued, either because the passenger did not provide all the information needed or they failed to follow up the complaint.
Which? says it then looked into this and found that 412 complaints were refused and a further 237 were discontinued.
However, Aviation ADR said that a ‘very large’ number of the remaining complaints were ‘put on hold’ because they had been submitted by claims management companies, who are in dispute with Ryanair.
It said: ‘Given the ongoing litigation between (claims solicitor) Bott & Co and Ryanair… the claims management companies have agreed that these claims should be put on hold pending the final outcome of the court case.’
But Bott & Co doesn’t accept that it has ‘agreed’ that the claims should be put on hold.
In a statement, the firm explained: ‘We felt that the claims should be looked at, however Aviation ADR have currently refused to do so, because Ryanair won’t deal with claims presented by solicitors.’
Bott & Co confirmed that it had made about 100 claims through Aviation ADR in 2017, ‘but we never got a response on any of them’.
The firm said that it had another 10,000 complaints it had been planning to send, ‘but they told us to wait because they wouldn’t consider the claims whilst Bott and Co v Ryanair was ongoing.’
Aviation ADR said that it has responded to the high numbers of Ryanair complaints since the end of 2017.
It told Which?: ‘We have significantly increased staff headcount to take account of both increased ADR volumes and unusual spikes in complaints.’
Despite the issues revealed by Which? Travel’s investigation and Aviation ADR’s response, the Civil Aviation Authority continues to insist that the system is working well.
With Ryanair saying it won’t pay compensation for its latest round of cancellations it means that passengers will have to take their compensation claims to Aviation ADR, the airline’s dispute resolution handler
It said: ‘Consumers will soon have the opportunity to seek a review of their case by an independent assessor, if they consider that their complaint has not been handled properly by the ADR provider.’
Ryanair told Which? that it ‘fully complies with the UK ADR’s rules and deadlines and it’s committed to the ADR process’.
The airline added: ‘We encourage any passengers who are not satisfied with Ryanair’s own complaints resolution to take them to ADR for free and independent resolution instead of going to claims chasers, who often end up deducting up to 50 per cent of compensation entitlement in excessive fees.’
Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, explained: ‘Another summer of nightmare flight cancellations for Ryanair customers reinforces why it is so important that passengers get the compensation due to them.
‘It is vital that passengers are not deterred from pursuing legitimate claims against airlines by a slow and cumbersome system.
‘The CAA must ensure the dispute resolution system is working for consumers, while the Government should look at introducing automatic compensation to stop Ryanair and other airlines from wriggling out of paying passengers the money they are owed.’
WHAT IS AIRLINES CLAIMS BODY AVIATION ADR?
Ryanair has claimed that the latest round of cancellations, caused by staff strikes, are an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ and its passengers aren’t due compensation.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said this is incorrect and that Ryanair will have to pay.
Yet the CAA has no power to rule on individual claims. Since 2016 it has encouraged airlines to join schemes run by private arbitration firms, like Aviation ADR.
Aviation ADR provides arbitration services for Ryanair, Virgin Atlantic, Wizz and many smaller airlines.
British Airways, Easyjet, Tui and Thomas Cook are all with a different company, CEDR.
It resolved many more EU261 [flight compensation] cases than Aviation ADR in 2017.
Passengers can claim under the EU’s 261 legislation if less than 14 days notice is given for a cancellation.
Airline travellers can claim up to 250 euros (£220) under EU261, depending on the timing of the alternative flight.
Among those receiving money through CEDR includes 818 BA passengers who were awarded EU261 compensation (it received 1,925 complaints), Easyjet 765 (3,220 complaints), Thomas Cook 274 (1,030 complaints), TUI 735 (1,783 complaints).
In the first quarter of 2018 the percentage of complaints resolved by CEDR has significantly increased.