FILE - In this Wednesday, May 13, 2015 file photo, passengers disembark a Ryanair plane, at the Marseille Provence airport, in Marignane, southern France. Budget airline Ryanair is reducing its fleet and cancelling thousands of more flights as it struggles to overcome a pilot scheduling crisis. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, FIle)

Ryanair bows to UK regulator demand on passenger rights

September 29, 2017 - 1:14 pm

LONDON (AP) — Ryanair caved in to pressure from regulators Friday and issued a statement telling passengers about their right to compensation for the thousands of flights that it has cancelled.

The move came as the budget airline faced the threat of legal action over the allegedly misleading statements it has made so far. Britain's Civil Aviation Authority had given Ryanair until 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) to issue the press release and provide a link to it on the company's website.

The regulator said Wednesday it had begun an enforcement action against the Dublin-based airline for "persistently misleading passengers" about their right to compensation following cancellations that the airline said resulted from pilot scheduling errors.

"We apologize again sincerely for the disruption and inconvenience our rostering failure has caused some of our customers," said Ryanair's chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs.

The regulator threatened to take legal action after Ryanair on Wednesday scrapped 18,000 flights in a second round of cancelations following the airline's admission that it "messed up" the scheduling of pilot vacations.

The watchdog said it would not hesitate to take action on consumer laws when an airline "is systematically flouting these rules."

"It appears that Ryanair has now capitulated," said Andrew Haines, the regulator's chief executive. "We will review their position in detail and monitor this situation to ensure that passengers get what they are entitled to."

The agency alleged the airline failed to tell customers it would re-route their travel on other carriers if no suitable flights were available on Ryanair and pay out-of-pocket expenses resulting from the cancellations.

Earlier, Britain's ITV News unearthed an internal Ryanair memo that allegedly instructed call center staff to offer flights with other carriers — provided the price "does not exceed three times the value of the original Ryanair fare."

The consumer group Which? criticized the airline's policy.

"Ryanair appears to be plucking figures out of thin air as there is no legal basis for the arbitrary figure they've set," Managing Director Alex Neill said. "The law says passengers must be rerouted and there's no specified limit on cost. This yet again highlights the importance of the action which the Civil Aviation Authority has started."

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