Ryanair is to offer compensation to passengers affected by a pilot strike four years ago, after dropping plans to take a rejected appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

The budget airline, having chosen to recognise trade unions for pilots and cabin crew, suffered a series of industrial actions in 2018, leading to flight cancellations – including some services in the UK.

Ryanair rejected passenger claims for compensation under European Union law, citing “extraordinary circumstances”, and this led to enforcement action from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

The airline lost its case, after the UK High Court ruled that it could not use the defence of extraordinary circumstances to refuse compensation payments, but appealed the ruling.

Ryanair also lost the appeal earlier this year.

Ryanair fleet-c-Piotr Mitelski Ryanair

Source: Ryanair/Piotr Mitelski

Ryanair had claimed crew strikes amounted to ‘extraordinary circumstances’

Although the UK had left the European Union, through the ‘Brexit’ withdrawal, the appeals court said the meaning or effect of any retained EU laws would still be decided in accordance with pre-Brexit decisions by the European Court of Justice.

This was crucial because the appeals judges referred to three European Court cases which had involved compensation following airline strikes.

Two of these were not decided until last year, after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. But the appeals judges pointed out in the hearing that, while not being bound by the rulings, “we are entitled to have regard to those decisions”.

“It seems to me that a strike concerning the pay or employment conditions of employees of an air carrier will not involve ‘extraordinary circumstances’,” said one of the judges in the appeal ruling.

“Negotiations with employees about such matters are clearly ‘inherent in the normal exercise of the air carrier concerned’ and they carry with them the risk that one or both sides will make demands that the other sees as unreasonable, that they will break down and that the employees will resort to strike action.”

Ryanair, having lost the appeal, secured permission to take the case to the Supreme Court.

But the CAA states that the airline “has now decided not to pursue this appeal” and will instead “provide compensation” to passengers disrupted by the pilots’ strike action, in line with the original EU laws.

CAA consumer director Paul Smith says: “We would encourage all passengers on flights that were affected to claim the compensation they are entitled to.”