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Parliamentary questions
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7 January 2019
Question for written answer E-000021-19
to the Commission
Rule 130
Ramon Tremosa i Balcells (ALDE)

 Subject:  Passenger rights, uniform application of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 and clarity on exceptional circumstances
 Answer in writing 

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has announced it is taking enforcement action against Ryanair for flight disruption over the summer. Ryanair, whose passengers suffered delayed or cancelled flights because of eight days of pilot and cabin crew strikes, said at the time that it was not liable for compensation under EU rules because of ‘extraordinary circumstances’(1).

One of the objectives of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004(2) (3) is to stop airlines using exceptional circumstances(4) as a way of not paying compensation.

According to Alexandre de Juniac, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association: ‘EU261 is still a mess for airlines and passengers, and a bonanza for claims agencies and their dubious practices’(5).

The rules stipulate that airlines must pay for disruption except in ‘extraordinary circumstances’, but without giving a clear definition of these. Courts in Germany, Spain and Italy have ruled that properly notified strikes are an ‘exceptional circumstance’ and compensation does not apply(6) — a decision Ryanair hopes will be followed in its dispute with the CAA.

In its Interpretative Guidelines(7), the Commission states that ‘sanctions should not be imposed on airlines where they can prove that they have undertaken their best endeavours to comply with their obligations’.

1. Can the Commission clarify whether notified strikes constitute exceptional circumstances, as is the case with all non-notified industrial actions(8)?

2. Do poor decisions on aircraft maintenance (cf. Written Question E-005380-18(9)) constitute exceptional circumstances and therefore absolve the airline from responsibility(10)?


Last updated: 23 January 2019Legal notice