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My Ryanair flight from Malta to TLV was canceled a week before the flight was scheduled. I requested their support for the earliest rerouting and suggested a connection flight option with another airline combination. The support agent told me that their own (Ryanair) next flight would be only a week later, and since they couldn't book me a flight with another airline, he instructed me to book the alternative tickets myself.

I booked the flight myself, and after arrival, I submitted my claim for the reimbursement of the re-routing flight cost. In their answer, Ryanair granted me a reimbursement of only 50% of the ticket price and stated that:

"Please note that as your alternative airline expenses were deemed excessive, a reasonable contribution 50% of the original price has been authorized for your reimbursement."

Can they do this lawfully ?

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  • Note: ignore all things airlines tell you on first (and possibly second interaction). You get a no with often bad excuses. They just try to filter out less convinced passengers. It is cheap on their part (but all airlines do it, not just the low budget ones). Ask them details, e.g. where they find the maximum prices, etc. Refer on previous communications (to show you keep track of it). Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 10:02

1 Answer 1

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The official EC Air passenger rights website tells us:

The airline must offer you, on a one off basis, a choice between:

  1. the reimbursement of your ticket and, if you have a connecting flight, a return flight to the airport of departure at the earliest opportunity
  2. re-routing to your final destination at the earliest opportunity or,
  3. re-routing at a later date at your convenience under comparable transport conditions, subject to the availability of seats.

(…)

  • If the airline does not comply with its obligation to offer re-routing or return under comparable transport conditions at the earliest opportunity, it has to reimburse your flight costs.
  • If the airline does not offer you the choice between reimbursement and re-routing but decides unilaterally to reimburse your original ticket, you are entitled to an additional reimbursement of the price difference with the new ticket (under comparable transport conditions).

So the only caveat is that your alternative must be “under comparable transport conditions”, so for instance if you had booked a cheap economy fare and ask for reimbursement of a first class ticket, there could be a problem.

At the same time, the obligation for them is to re-route you “at the earliest opportunity”, which is deemed to really mean that, even if they have to book you on an alternative airline or in a higher class of service.

So it will probably depend on whether you can somehow justify that whatever alternative flight was indeed the best option, and not just you trying to get an upgrade paid by them.

While I sympathise with them in this situation (it’s not like it’s their fault if the flight was cancelled), the law is clear: they have to get you there or pay for your costs. I understand that given the situation the number of options must have been limited and expensive, but it’s not a best effort goodwill gesture, it’s a legal obligation.

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  • Thanks for the help. The re-routing flight was with a similar class - economy. Also, their support didn't present me with any options, nor did they instruct me to record and document possible re-routing flights to back my decision for the best and cheapest option. The flight I chose was the cheapest given the constraint that it should disrupt my schedule as little as possible ( be the shortest and on the same day).
    – Michael L.
    Commented Nov 4, 2023 at 17:36
  • I wonder if the burden to prove that my alternative flight was the cheapest is on me given that before I booked that flight I asked their support to find a flight for me and they turned me away to deal with the re-routing myself.
    – Michael L.
    Commented Nov 4, 2023 at 17:42
  • Do you have a source for the 'even if they have to book you on an alternative airline' part? As a passenger I would really like that to be true but I could totally see that airlines will interpret the rerouting as with their own airline only and if the earliest available routing is a week later than that is bad luck for the passenger.
    – quarague
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 8:09
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    @quarague EC261 Interpretative Guidelines section 4.2 "re-routing should be offered at no additional cost to the passenger, even where passengers are re-routed with another air carrier or on a different transport mode or in a higher class or at a higher fare(...)" publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/… (UK, but based on EU law), page 8: "airlines must provide comprehensive information to passengers about the re-routing options, including flights on other airlines"
    – jcaron
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 10:40
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    @quarague The UK CAA's position (again, UK, but based on EU law and case law) is detailed in Chapter 4 "Guidance on identifying re-routing options, including on other airlines" of publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/… which basically goes along the lines of "if no availability the same day on original airline, then they should seek alternatives on other airlines".
    – jcaron
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 10:44

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