The Court of Justice of the European Union has delivered its final judgment in Case C-12/11, Denise McDonagh v Ryanair Ltd. Full text of CJEU decision available here. As was expected, the Court largely followed the opinion provided by Advocate General Yves Bot last March, which held that Ms. McDonagh had valid claim against Ryanair for compensation for food and accommodations after Ryanair cancelled her flight due to the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano in Iceland.
Following Advocate General Bot’s decision, the CJEU made four points:
- EU law does not recognize a separate category of ‘particularly extraordinary’ events, beyond ‘extraordinary circumstances’, which would lead to the air carrier being exempted from all its obligations under the regulation, including those to provide care. Thus, the eruption of the volcano fell within the category of “extraordinary circumstances” according to EU law and thus, the airline was not released from its obligation to provide care to passengers for flight cancellation.
- The EU regulation in question does not provide for any limitation, either temporal or monetary, of the obligation to provide care to passengers whose flight is cancelled due to extraordinary circumstances.
- While the obligation to provide care entails financial consequences for air carriers, they cannot be considered disproportionate to the aim of ensuring a high level of protection for passengers. The Court went to to state that airlines should foresee this type of cost and are free to build the cost into the fare structure.
Finally, the court pointed out that Ms. McDonagh, by way of damages,”may only obtain, by way of compensation, reimbursement of the amounts which proved necessary, appropriate and reasonable to make up for the shortcomings of the air carrier, a matter which is for the national court to assess.”
For Taber Law Group, P.C.’s commentary on the Advocate General’s decision, please see, Airline Required To Provide Care for Passenger Stranded by Eruption of Volcano, European Court of Justice Says (March 25, 2012).