Spanish Court Finds Ryanair Baggage Policy Unfair

On Friday, Spain’s Supreme Court has ruled on a particular Ryanair baggage policy that allows the airline to send passenger baggage on another flight. Declaring it null and void, the court said the airline’s policy and its justifications were too generic and vague. The court also called one of the airline’s other clauses “abusive.”

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With several cities in Spain being major leisure destinations, Ryanair has established a number of bases throughout the country.  Photo: Andy Mitchell via Wikimedia Commons 

Unspecific circumstances

In the fine print of its tickets, European budget carrier Ryanair has a clause that allows it to send passenger bags and suitcases on flights that are different from the passenger’s own flight.

Some have taken issue with this policy- in this case, it’s Spanish consumer group, Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (OCU), leading the charge against the airline. The OCU highlight’s the airline’s legal wording and its overly vague justification to allow the practice. In this case, the airline can send bags on a different flight for safety or operational reasons.

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Ryanair has had to face a number of legal challenges to its policies. Photo: Bene Riobó via Wikimedia Commons

Spanish outlet La Vanguardia reports the court has sided with the OCU, ruling that the policy cannot be left “to the will of the carrier to move (or not move) the checked baggage on the same flight under the invocation of inconcrete and absolutely unspecific circumstances of safety or operability.”

An ‘abusive’ clause

Beyond the baggage transport issue, the Spanish court also had its say on Ryanair’s clause 2.4, which concerns “Governing law and jurisdiction.” This clause is as follows:

“Except as otherwise provided by the Convention or applicable law, your contract of carriage with us, these Terms & Conditions of Carriage and our Regulations shall be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Ireland and any dispute arising out of or in connection with this contract shall be subject to the jurisdiction of the Irish Courts.”

The court called this condition “abusive” since it “causes a significant imbalance between the rights and obligations” of customers and the airline. The court goes on to say that this clause obstructs possible legal actions or remedies by the consumer, who would need to do their own research on Irish law content.

The court argues that, according to EU law, Spanish law would be applicable if the consumer resides in Spain, with the origin or destination also in the country. The Supreme Court asserts that the Ryanair clause is “incomplete,” misleading the consumer to believe that only Irish law applies to the contract without informing them that there are guaranteed protections under passenger air transport law.

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The Spanish Supreme Court responded to Ryanair’s appeals against several previous rulings, upholding them and rejecting the appeal of the airline. Photo: Andy Mitchell via Wikimedia Commons 

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Other rulings against Ryanair

On Friday, the Spanish Supreme Court also examined appeals filed by the OCU and Ryanair relating to a 2017 court decision on other Ryanair clauses. Of particular interest, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the airline’s 40 euro ($47) charge for reprinting a boarding pass was disproportionate.

In 2019, Spanish courts also ruled Ryanair’s baggage fees were “excessive” and “abusive.” The incident that triggered this two-year-old ruling involved a passenger receiving a €20 ($22) fine for trying to bring her bag into the cabin. The passenger boarded the flight with a small handbag and 10kg bag, which would supposedly not have fit into the cabin. In this case, the commercial court in Spain ruled that the baggage would easily have fit in the cabin.

What do you think of these court rulings? Are they just and fair in your opinion? Let us know in the comments.