Europe Travel

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

News: Ryanair To Appeal "Biased" Italy ash fine

Irish airline Ryanair said on Tuesday it would appeal a "biased" decision by Italy's civil aviation authority to fine it EUR€3 million euros (USD$3.7 million) for failing to help passengers stranded by the volcanic ash cloud.

Italy's ENAC civil aviation authority said at the weekend that in 178 cases Ryanair had failed to adequately assist passengers between April 17 and 22, when the ash cloud grounded thousands of flights across Europe.

By contrast, almost all the other airlines provided proper assistance to ticket holders, ENAC said.

Ryanair, which said it had not received official notification of any fine, said in a statement that ENAC had not informed it of any violations or given it the opportunity to defend itself during an investigation, making any fine unlawful.

"At a time when all airlines across Europe were cancelling thousands of flights and disrupting millions of passengers, it is extraordinary that ENAC could investigate and then impose a EUR€3 million fine only upon Ryanair," said the airline's spokesman Stephen McNamara.

Ryanair said that many disrupted passengers in Italy were offered hotel accommodation at Ryanair's expense and those who were not, because of the high numbers involved, were advised to submit a reimbursement claim to Ryanair, in compliance with EU rules.

"This would appear to be the latest in a long series of biased, anti-Ryanair rulings by ENAC, an organisation which has repeatedly shown its bias and lack of impartiality when it comes to cases relating to Ryanair," he said.

Ryanair said it and its handling agents had complied with EU regulation EU261, under which EU airlines are required to reimburse the reasonable receipted expenses of disrupted passengers. It has said passengers were not entitled to compensation as the disruption was beyond airlines' control.

McNamara said Ryanair had won a court injunction against ENAC last week allowing its planes to continue landing at Rome Fiumicino airport in late evening, rather than diverting to land at Rome's Ciampino airport.

In December, Ryanair had threatened to halt domestic flights at 10 Italian airports because of reduced check-in measures, prompting ENAC to threaten to sue the airline for its comments on Italian airport security. The row was resolved in January with a deal specifying passengers would have to produce either a passport or a European Economic Area national identity card. ENAC said Ryanair had apologised for a "misunderstanding" over its comments on security.

Some 1,000 flights were grounded on Monday in parts of northern Europe because prevailing winds again pushed the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland across parts of the region.

The return of the cloud prompted British and Irish authorities and aircraft manufacturers to create a new flying zone, allowing airlines to fly through areas of medium ash density that were previously off limits.



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