When the Icelandic volcano ‘Eyjafjallajokull’ erupted back in 2010, approximately 10 million people had no option but to stay where they were as airlines were not operating. This led to over 100,000 cancelled flights over European airspace between April 15th and April 22nd, costing the airline industry billions. European regulation 261/2004 outlines passenger rights when it comes to flight delay compensation. It states that extreme weather classifies as an extraordinary circumstance, exempting airlines from the legal obligation to provide passengers with compensation. Due to this, passengers had a slim chance of receiving flight delay compensation if their flights were affected by the volcanic ash cloud.
However, some passengers were able to claim compensation when airlines used the volcanic ash cloud as an excuse. As in fact, delays were the direct result of a “knock-on effect”. Knock-on effects occur when a previous delay causes a disruption to the airline’s schedule. Knock-on effects could last just one day if only one flight was delayed for example, whereas in extreme cases knock-on effects could cause delays for up to several weeks. The delays caused by the volcanic ash cloud disrupted a huge amount of flights for approximately 9 days in total.
Last year, in January 2013, Ryanair lost an appeal regarding a flight delay compensation case that occurred during the 2010 volcanic ash cloud. Denise McDonagh, from Ireland was stuck in Portugal for a week as her Faro to Dublin flight was cancelled due to the volcanic eruption. Her expenses racked up to a total of €1,130 (£940) which she submitted to Ryanair once she returned to Ireland. Ryanair refused to reimburse her, claiming that the consequences of the volcanic eruption were unexpected and out of the airline’s control. The court said that all airlines must provide care to passengers when flights are cancelled this includes meals, accommodation and transport to and from the airport. As a result, Ryanair had to pay the compensation to Denise McDonagh. This case therefore sets precedent that natural occurring events or ‘acts of God’ do not fall beyond extraordinary circumstances. This means that airlines are fully responsible for reimbursing passengers for the money that they spent until the next available flight.
Four years on from the 2010 Icelandic ash cloud and new information has arose concerning another volcanic eruption. Earlier this week, the Icelandic Met Office categorised the risk level of volcano ‘Bardarbunga’ as orange, which is the second highest on the scale. The risk level was raised due to intense seismic activity as well as significant evidence of magma movement. Therefore history could be repeating itself meaning that passengers will be faced with air travel chaos once again. If the volcano does erupt, as scientists have predicted then it will cause heavy flight delays and disruptions across the whole of Europe. If you experience a flight delay or cancellation, contact a flight delay refunds company such as Blueway Limited who will be able to advise you on the validity of your claim.