Under EU flight compensation regulation 261, air passengers are entitled to compensation of up to €600 (£524) in the event of delays of more than four hours, cancellations and denial of boarding due to overbooking.
Many passengers pursue compensation through legal firms, who frequently take costs from the final settlement.
However, Ryanair’s policy has long been to communicate with, and pay EU261 compensation directly to, its passengers.
Bott & Co Solicitors last year challenged Ryanair’s stance in defence of its right to recover the costs of pursuing flight delay compensation for its clients.
A three-day hearing was convened at the High Court over November 15-17 last year, with judge Edward Murray last week (March 16) ruling in Ryanair’s favour. Bott has said it will appeal.
His judgment states the average gross compensation received by Bott customers is €327 (£286) and the firm’s average fee per flight delay compensation claim is around £95.
One of Bott’s specific issues was that of direct communication, in so much as it is customary, once a solicitor is instructed, communication proceeds through legal channels rather than between the claimant and the airline directly.
The judge though said Ryanair had established a “straightforward” and “easy-to-use” process for passengers to seek EU261 compensation, either online or in writing, “without the assistance of a third party” and stressed it was a matter for individuals to decide whether to use a firm to hand their claim.
“Ryanair is not obliged to pay compensation directly to Bott in relation to claims submitted by Bott on behalf of its clients to Ryanair,” he said.
The judge added: "Ryanair is not obliged to indemnify Bott in respect of fees where it has paid compensation directly to Bott’s client while on notice of the claim and where Bott has not recovered its fees in respect of the claim from the client.”
Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair’s chief marketing officer, said: “We welcome this High Court ruling upholding Ryanair’s policy of communicating with, and paying EU261 compensation directly to, our consumers.
“Ryanair has established a dedicated claims team to process these valid claims within 10 working days and to make it as straightforward as possible for our customers.”
David Bott, senior partner at Bott & Co, said he was “very disappointed” by the judgment: “We believe it is wrong and we will be appealing the decision,” he said.
“For over five years we have worked tirelessly to bring airlines to account under Regulation EC261/2004 and in doing so, to improve the rights of millions of air passengers flying in or out of the UK each year.
“This latest judgment is of course a setback for the freedom of choice of passengers in getting help on their compensation claims in an area of law that is not without its complexity.
“We have always offered the ‘direct to airline’ approach for our customers and provide free letters of claim on our website with a free flight delay checker for passengers to check their eligibility under the regulation.
“Despite this, thousands of passengers choose to use our paid service rather than having the hassle and additional delays of dealing directly with the airline.
“With no intermediary, who is expected to hold airlines to account? Our track record of taking airlines all the way to the Supreme Court for passenger rights speaks for itself.”