Ryanair is losing the battle against having to pay you for flight delays

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO, not flying so high today.
Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO, not flying so high today.
Image: Reuters/Max Rossi
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Airlines flying out of the UK just lost a way to avoid paying up to disgruntled customers when their flights are delayed. A court in the UK ruled against Ryanair today, limiting the airline’s ability to set its own statute of limitations on customer claims.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the suit told the BBC that the ruling could make Ryanair liable for £610 million ($960 million) in past claims. To put that in perspective, Ryanair reported net income of €915 million ($1 billion) in the 12 months ending in June 2015.

The company said it would appeal the ruling, which found that it could not shorten the claims window from six years to two by including a provision in the fine print on its tickets, known as the “contract of carriage.” The stock was trading 3.65% lower on the Irish Stock Exchange today.

The ruling comes as apps like AirHelp have renewed interest in passenger compensation. Depending on the jurisdiction, regulators require airlines to pay passengers for certain inconveniences like lengthy delays, but many passengers never claim them—some because of ignorance, others because of frustration with the claims process. Services like AirHelp that try to streamline the claims process then take a cut of successful claims.

On its website the app maker says less than 1% of eligible EU air passengers receive compensation that is owed to them.