The European Court has ruled that passengers can claim compensation when flights are cancelled or delayed due to technical problemsGetty Images

Hours after the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of passengers claiming compensation for delayed flights, the Civil Aviation Authority has initiated enforcement action against Europe's biggest budget airline, Ryanair. The UK aviation regulator ordered the Dublin-based airline to pay up for delayed flights or face legal action.

The CAA said it started the enforcement action against Ryanair, accusing the airline of not following the law. "We will do everything in our power to ensure that passengers are receiving the support they are legally entitled to, during and after disruption," CAA's chief executive Andrew Haines said.

The CAA action came after the European court ruled in favour of a passenger whose KLM flight from Quito in Ecuador to Amsterdam was delayed by 29 hours. Passengers can file for compensation under EU261 regulation and can receive compensation between £185 and £445 for flight delays of at least three hours.

However, passengers cannot claim compensation when flights are delayed due to poor weather, strike or air-traffic control issues. The court has ruled that unexpected mechanical problems cannot be used as justification for refusing compensation.

Passengers can claim compensation if they fly an EU carrier or one from Iceland, Norway or Switzerland, which arrives or departs in EU airports only. The claim can be backdated as far as six years in England and Wales.


Ryanair, which had initially agreed to a six-year time limit for compensation claims, is trying to move towards a two-year time limit. "Ryanair is attempting to impose a contractual two-year time limit from the date of the flight for passengers to issue compensation claims at court – despite previously publicly committing to a six-year time limit," the CAA said.

But Ryanair defended itself. "Ryanair fully complies with EU 261 regulations which are a fundamental part of our customer charter," Ryanair's director of customer service Fiona Kearns said. The decision will have minimal effect on Ryanair since less than half of 1% of its flights are delayed by over three hours, the airlines said.