The Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) has fined Irish budget airline Ryanair €1.85 million for mass cancellations of flights in late 2017.
The authority said on 7 June that the airline had engaged in “unfair commercial practice” when it cancelled thousands of flights without warning in September 2017, causing “considerable inconvenience” to consumers.
Ryanair announced on 15 September 2017 the cancellation of thousands of flights, affecting as many as 400,000 passengers. The airline blamed the cancellations on a combination of air traffic control strikes, weather disruptions and a backlog of annual leave owed to crew members after new regulations were imposed by the Irish Aviation Authority.
The AGCM, however, said the cancellations were due to organisational and management issues that the airline was aware of ahead of time and were not “dependent on occasional and exogenous causes outside its control”.
According to the AGCM, Ryanair also acted in a “misleading manner” when it informed passengers of the cancellations, as it had not adequately informed them of their right to additional compensation under article 14 of EU Regulation No. 261/2004.
The Regulation stipulates that passengers may claim compensation in the amount of several hundred euros in the event of flight cancellations close to the day of departure, but Ryanair only offered to refund or exchange tickets.
The AGCM said that it had reduced the initial sanction imposed on the airline after it “substantially changed its conduct” – including updating the information on its website regarding compensation and individually notifying passengers of their rights – in February 2018 in response to a precautionary measure ordered by the authority.
“We note the ruling, which our lawyers are reviewing,” Ryanair told ALN.
The Italian ruling comes after the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) launched an action against Ryanair shortly after the cancellations were announced.
Ryanair initially said it would pay passengers up to €20 million in compensation for the cancellations, but the regulator proceeded with expedited enforcement proceedings after the airline failed to provide reassurance that passengers’ rights would be upheld or issue a “corrective public statement”.
In a follow-on announcement at the end of September, the CAA said Ryanair had “capitulated” with its requirements, adding that it has written to “over 30 airlines seeking confirmation that they too are complying with the re-routing elements of EC261 legislation.”