The CAA is pursuing legal action against Ryanair after a review which found the no-frills airline was not fully complying with European consumer law regarding compensation for passengers following flight disruption.
In a statement the CAA said Ryanair was now required to “make policy changes or face the prospect of further enforcement steps leading to court action, if the airline remains non-compliant”.
It is the latest phase of enforcement activity following the CAA’s six-month review of airlines’ policies regarding support for disrupted passengers.
The review was designed to ensure that airlines comply with the European regulations, which were recently confirmed by the UK courts, safeguarding passengers’ rights and providing for compensation as a result of flight disruption.
The CAA said it had investigated the largest 15 airlines operating in the UK, representing 80% of all passenger traffic, before publishing its first compliance report earlier this year.
In its initial response to the CAA, Ryanair set out how it was dealing with flight delay compensation claims where delays have been caused by a routine technical fault. The airline also confirmed its treatment of claims received from customers dating back up to six years from the disrupted flight.
However the CAA said that following a further review of the information presented to it by Ryanair, as well as additional information provided following formal requests for further information and analysis of passenger complaints data, it had concluded that it was not satisfied Ryanair was dealing with compensation claims for disruption caused by routine technical faults in line with applicable consumer law.
It also said Ryanair was attempting to impose a contractual two-year time limit, from the date of the flight, for passengers to issue compensation claims at court – despite previously publicly committing to a six year time limit and in spite of the UK Court of Appeal (Dawson v Thomson Airways) ruling that passengers have up to six years to issue such claims at court.
The CAA is now pursuing legal action under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002, mandating Ryanair to change its policies to give its passengers the support and compensation they are entitled to.
Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of the CAA, said: "The law is clear that compensation must be paid if a flight is delayed for more than three hours by a routine technical fault. It is also clear that air passengers have up to six years to issue a compensation claim at court. This position was reaffirmed by the Court of Appeal last year.
"The CAA is committed to protecting the rights of air passengers and we are determined to ensure all airlines comply with this regulation. That is why we are announcing this latest action against Ryanair today as our recent work has shown that they are not complying with this consumer law.
“Our review of airline policies has already led to Jet2, Aer Lingus and Wizz Air changing their position. We will do everything in our power to ensure that passengers are receiving the support they need, and are legally entitled to, during and after disruption.”
The CAA is now completing its second compliance report which is reviewing a further 16 airlines’ policies. It is due to be published by the end of the year.
The authority added that if any of the airlines were found to be in breach of consumer law, the CAA would not hesitate to use its powers to launch further enforcement action.