The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is taking enforcement action against Ryanair over the airline’s refusal to compensate passengers affected by strikes earlier this year, but the Irish LCC is standing its ground.

The airline insists that strike-related flight cancellations fall under the “extraordinary circumstances” category of the Europe’s passenger-rights rules—known as EC261/2004 and EU261—but CAA and legal experts dispute that claim.

CAA said Dec. 5 it is taking legal action against Ryanair because the airline has “rejected” direct compensation claims from passengers relating to flight disruptions caused by the strikes and also “terminated its agreement with AviationADR,” an alternative dispute resolution scheme approved by the CAA.

“As the Civil Aviation Authority said at the time of the industrial action, in its view, the strikes were not ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and were not exempt, meaning consumers should be compensated in accordance with Regulation EC261/2004,” the CAA said.

Ryanair responded that courts in Italy, Germany and Spain have ruled that EU261 is not applicable to flight disruptions caused by strikes.

“We expect the UK CAA and courts will follow this precedent,” the airline said, pointing to a note issued by Goodbody Stockbrokers in the wake of the CAA’s announcement, which said: “We note the Barcelona Court decision in October, which noted no compensation is due to customers whose flights are cancelled due to an internal strike. Similarly, in the past, Lufthansa were not obliged to pay EU261 allowances when pilots [went on strike] for 15 days.”

Some legal experts support the CAA’s stance, however. Bott and Co., a UK-based solicitor practice specializing in flight-delay compensation, said the Ryanair strikes were not extraordinary circumstances because they were under the airline’s control.

“Ryanair will say that there are Spanish, German and Italian decisions which support their decision. However, we believe those decisions do not correctly take into account an ECJ [European Court of Justice] ruling from April 2018, which ruled that strikes caused by disagreements over working conditions are not extraordinary circumstances since they are both within the airline’s control and, also, an inherent part of running a business,” Bott solicitor Coby Benson told ATW.

Bott is awaiting the outcome of a test case it issued in UK courts in October to see whether its view is supported.

“There were 200,000 [passengers] affected by Ryanair strikes this year and we are dealing with a select few of them as part of our test case, with a view to the court confirming definitively that Ryanair are obliged to pay compensation for the strikes,” Benson said.

The Goodbody note cited by Ryanair pointed out that “no action was taken against British Airways [BA] during its staff strikes last year.” But enforcement action was not taken against BA because “they made a commitment to pay compensation,” a CAA spokesman said.

CAA has advised passengers who have made strike-related claims against Ryanair via AviationADR that their claims are “on hold,” and they will have to await the outcome of its enforcement action.

Kerry Reals, kerry@realsreporting.com