Fox Williams secures a landmark legal victory for On the Beach against Ryanair. In a first-of-its-kind case, the High Court ordered Ryanair to pay £2m to On the Beach for flights it cancelled or significantly changed during the pandemic. The judgment delivered on 31st October 2023 has set an important legal precedent in relation to the rights of package holiday organisers to seek refunds from airlines. The ruling has clarified the law and is expected to pave the way for similar claims in the future.
On the Beach is an online travel agent which organised thousands of package holidays which included a Ryanair flight that was affected during the pandemic. Due to flight cancellations and major changes made by Ryanair during the pandemic, these holidays had to be cancelled and refunded. On the Beach asked Ryanair to refund the price paid for the flights, which it refused. Fox Williams worked with On the Beach to bring a legal claim to recover this sum.
In bringing its claim, Fox Williams relied upon two legal bases to support On the Beach:
- Regulation 29 of the Package Travel Regulations 2018, which provides a “right to redress” for package organisers against third parties which cause them loss. In this case, On the Beach claimed that Ryanair’s flight cancellations and major changes caused it to have to cancel package holidays and refund customers;
- The law of unjust enrichment, which provides package organisers with a right to claim a contribution from third parties whose own liability to refund the customer is extinguished by a payment made by the package organiser. In this case, On the Beach claimed that its package holiday refunds extinguished Ryanair’s obligation to refund the customer.
The High Court ruled in favour of On the Beach on both grounds and ordered Ryanair to pay £2m. In so doing, the High Court clarified an important aspect of the Package Travel Regulations, which (to some) had been uncertain: whether regulation 29 created a freestanding legal right for the package organiser to recover from third parties which cause it loss. The court has clearly decided that it does.
Insofar as we are aware, this is the first-ever case on this issue in the UK or any EU Member State.
The Fox Williams team comprised Rhys Griffiths, Gavin Foggo and William Farrant, assisted by counsel of 3 Verulam Buildings, Andrew Sutcliffe KC and Anthony Pavlovich.