Consumer organisation Test-Achats has filed a class action lawsuit against the Irish budget airline Ryanair, claiming 16 million in damages.
The motive for the suit is a series of strikes last summer affecting some 40,000 passengers. According to EU law, the organisation argues, passengers booked on cancelled flights are entitled to compensation of 250 to 600 euros, depending on the distance covered by the flight. Ryanair has already reimbursed ticket prices or allowed passengers affected by the strikes to book on another flight without additional cost.
Test-Achats calculates the total bill for compensating all passengers will come to 16 million euros. The strikes in question took place on 25 and 26 July, 10 August and 28 September and caused the cancellation or delay to 170 flights into and out of Zaventem and Charleroi.
Ryanair in turn argues that the strikes were outside the power of the company to prevent.
“Passengers have a right to compensation, because this was a strike of [Ryanair’s] own staff,” said Test-Achats spokesperson Simon November. “There is European jurisprudence that supports us, and in fact says that even a wildcat strike cannot be considered force majeure.”
Staff at Ryanair were protesting at company policy to employ staff in Ireland, where labour laws are slacker, even though the staff member in question had never set foot in the country. They also called for union recognition.
Immediately after the strikes, Test-Achats filed some 40 cases with courts in Zaventem and Charleroi. However the judge in Zaventem declared the case outside of his responsibility, while the case in Charleroi has still not produced a result. The new action, which is expected to take a year, will first have to decide if individual passengers have to opt into the action, or whether they can be represented simply by declining to opt out.
Class actions – where a large number of people with the same complaint can join their lawsuits together – have been possible in Belgium since 2014. Since then, Test-Achats has represented consumers in eight cases, including this one. Other actions were filed against Facebook, Groupon and Volkswagen.