Ryanair chief in U-turn over ash payments

RYANAIR yesterday backtracked on a controversial statement by chief executive Michael O’Leary which said the Irish budget airline would not reimburse stranded passengers for hotel expenses.

Instead the budget airline boss said Ryanair would comply with European Union regulations and award compensation to passengers stranded by the volcanic ash cloud.

A statement from the airline said that it will comply with “the unfair” regulation EU261, which requires airlines to reimburse reasonable receipted expenses of disrupted passengers.

O’Leary called the six-day blanket ban on European flights wrong and said that the EU261 rule was “absurd and discriminatory.”

“Ryanair has long campaigned for these reimbursements under passenger rights legislation to be limited to the ticket price paid in the same way they are for train, coach and ferry operators,” he said yesterday.

The U-turn by the airline is on the back of comments made by O’Leary earlier this week when he called for a suspension of the “ludicrous passenger compensation rules”.

The Ryanair boss went against his competitors and said he would not pay compensation to passengers on any additional expenses generated during the disruption caused by the volcanic ash cloud.

O’Leary said yesterday Ryanair will continue to work through budget airline body, the European Low Fares Airlines Association (ELFAA) and other industry bodies, in a bid to persuade the European Commission and European parliament to change the regulation.

The ELFAA would not comment and is currently lobbying European parliament to provide urgent relief measures to airlines.

The news comes as Ryanair said yesterday that it was operating a full schedule of flights.