Flight fiasco: who's eligible for compensation after Ryanair grounds Israel routes?

Irish low-cost airline informs customers will halt operations in Israel and refund flights booked in advance

Ehud Fai|
Irish airline Ryanair recently informed many Israeli passengers who booked a flight with them for the coming months that it's canceling its flights to and from Israel. In a statement sent to passengers, the company said their flight was canceled "for commercial reasons."
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Though the statement includes an apology for the cancellation, it likely won't help the Israelis who planned to travel abroad with the company. Following the announcement many Israelis ask what their rights are when it comes to their canceled flights.
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מטוס בואינג 737 של חברת ריינאייר
מטוס בואינג 737 של חברת ריינאייר
Ryanair airliner
(Photo: Shutterstock)
Are passengers entitled to compensation for a canceled flight? In cases where the flight is canceled or delayed by more than eight hours, passengers are entitled to receive financial compensation based on the distance of the flight according to the Aviation Services Law. Compensation ranges from 1,390 shekels to 3,340 shekels, depending on the flight's distance.
This law applies to all flights that take off or land in Israel, including connection flights, regardless of whether the flight is that of a foreign or Israeli airline, or a charter, regular, or low-cost flight. However, the law includes several exceptions to this and if the airline can prove that one of them applies, it may be exempt from compensating passengers.
The most common exception stipulates that if the flight is canceled due to circumstances beyond the airline's control, and it did everything possible to prevent its cancellation, passengers won't be entitled to compensation.
Another relevant exception in this case states that if the airline notifies passengers of the cancellation more than 14 days ahead of the flight, it is exempt from paying financial compensation to passengers for the flight's cancellation.
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הודעת הביטול שעו"ד אהוד פאי קיבל מריינאייר
הודעת הביטול שעו"ד אהוד פאי קיבל מריינאייר
Ryanair's statement
In other words, in cases where Ryanair or other airlines cancel their flights and notify passengers more than 14 days before the scheduled departure date, passengers won't be entitled to receive financial compensation, regardless of the reason for the flight's cancellation.
What will passengers still be entitled to in such a case? While the law states that in cases where airlines notify passengers of flight cancellation more than 14 days in advance, their entitlement to financial compensation is waived, airlines are still obligated to offer passengers the right to choose between a cash refund and alternative flight tickets under conditions as close as possible to those of their original flight, and at the earliest possible date according to the airline's ability.
In other words, the passengers have the right to choose whether to receive a refund or alternative flight tickets. If the airline didn't offer this right, and automatically refunded the fare, resulting in passengers having to purchase more expensive tickets to their original destination, I believe they would be entitled to receive compensation for the difference between the price of the canceled flight and the new flight.
If passengers wish to receive a refund, the airline must reimburse them the full fare they paid for their tickets within 21 days of the passengers' written request.
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מטוסים של ריינאייר בנמל התעופה בדבלין
מטוסים של ריינאייר בנמל התעופה בדבלין
Ryanair aircraft
(Photo: Peter Krocka / Shutterstock.com)
Will passengers be entitled to reimbursement for losses such as hotel or car rentals? In many cases, passengers book additional services for their trips, such as hotel accommodation, car rental, tickets for tourist attractions, and more. Therefore, in cases where the airline cancels the flight, passengers are sometimes forced to absorb financial losses such as significant cancellation fees or non-refundable bookings.
In these cases, however, airlines won't be required to compensate passengers for their losses, even though they were incurred as a result of the flight's cancellation.
In addition, in most legal proceedings on the subject, it's ruled that these damages (for hotel/car rental/attractions, etc.) constitute consequential damages that aren't recoverable under the law, and that the financial compensation for flight cancellation encompasses them.
  • Ehud Fai is a lawyer specializing in civil and commercial law. The mentioned above does not constitute professional legal advice.
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